An Authentic Reward

I don’t tend to use a lot of adjectives when I write, though this was entirely an evolution rather than a conscious choice. I say this because low-adjective writing is very much the way in MFA programs, in part because of fashion, but also for very good reasons as well.

One problem with adjectives: they often pass judgment. I might write, “It was a sunny morning,” which is a fact. If I write, “It was a glorious sunny morning,” I am now telling a story, as it were, about that morning, telling you it is glorious. Its gloriousness is entirely subjective. There’s nothing wrong with subjectivity when it is used deliberately. For instance, in the case of this aforementioned morning, I, the writer, might understand the morning is not factually glorious, but I want the reader to understand the narrator perceives it as glorious. That is a fact.

The second problem with adjectives: they are often used in place of authentic feeling. Perhaps I would like to write about that same morning. Perhaps it was a morning I had lived, and which I had found glorious. By inserting glorious I am simply remembering the fact that I once found this morning wonderful, the way I remember that 2+2=4. On the other hand, if I return to that morning in my imagination, and if I feel again what I felt then, I can share how I loved that morning, such as, “It was the first morning in months that I could recall caring that it was sunny rather than rainy, the first morning in months I stepped out my front door and wanted to thank whoever was in charge for the day.”

Writing for me is about sharing something that I feel, and the only way to share that feeling is to actually feel it, to return again and again to what I wish to share. Eventually, I dropped adjectives because I found I was using them when I didn’t trust myself. After all, feelings, unlike fact, can’t be seen or touched or measured or compared; only their expression can be observed. Their source, meanwhile, is known only to me. And so I must trust every time I write that I can find the way back to that source, a journey that remains writing’s first and only real reward.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.indd

Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

An Authentic Reward

I don’t tend to use a lot of adjectives when I write, though this was entirely an evolution rather than a conscious choice. I say this because low-adjective writing is very much the way in MFA programs, in part because of fashion, but also for very good reasons as well.

One problem with adjectives: they often pass judgment. I might write, “It was a sunny morning,” which is a fact. If I write, “It was a glorious sunny morning,” I am now telling a story, as it were, about that morning, telling you it is glorious. Its gloriousness is entirely subjective. There’s nothing wrong with subjectivity when it is used deliberately. For instance, in the case of this aforementioned morning, I, the writer, might understand the morning is not factually glorious, but I want the reader to understand the narrator perceives it as glorious. That is a fact.

The second problem with adjectives: they are often used in place of authentic feeling. Perhaps I would like to write about that same morning. Perhaps it was a morning I had lived, and which I had found glorious. By inserting glorious I am simply remembering the fact that I once found this morning wonderful, the way I remember that 2+2=4. On the other hand, if I return to that morning in my imagination, and if I feel again what I felt then, I can share how I loved that morning, such as, “It was the first morning in months that I could recall caring that it was sunny rather than rainy, the first morning in months I stepped out my front door and wanted to thank whoever was in charge for the day.”

Writing for me is about sharing something that I feel, and the only way to share that feeling is to actually feel it, to return again and again to what I wish to share. Eventually, I dropped adjectives because I found I was using them when I didn’t trust myself. After all, feelings can’t be seen or touched or measured or compared; only their expression can be observed. Their source, meanwhile, is known only to me. And so I must trust every time I write that I can find the way back to that source, a journey that remains writing’s first and only real reward.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.

Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com
Follow wdbk on Twitter

The Bones

Someone suggested to me recently that the best way to handle particularly challenging events is, “to let the world tell you its story.” By which he meant, don’t impose a story upon it. Great advice, I thought, for writers or anyone else.

Reminds me of what Hemingway said about adjectives. He didn’t trust them. I understand this. Words like beauty, good, strange, greedy—these are judgments in the end. So a man just offered a generous raise asks for more money. We might call him greedy. Yet all we really know for sure are the nouns and the verbs of the situation: man, raise, asks for more money. Greed is a judgment we impose upon it. Has he not gotten a raise in years? Does he want to get fired? Or maybe nothing is ever enough for him.

This is why all writing books, when discussing style, focus on the nouns and verbs, because life at its core is nouns and verbs. Someone did something, that we know for sure, the rest is opinion. Of course, the Op Ed page is the most read section in most newspapers, so we like opinions—but the opinion we usually like the most is our own. As it should be.

And as any good opinion writer knows, the bones of the case of your opinion must be built from what we call facts, nouns and verbs. Here is what happened, and here is the conclusion I draw from these events. The bad opinion writer simply piles on praise or insults: so-and-so is a liar, a cheat, and a bum. We must take his word for it. No bones.

The beauty of the world—that is, everything happening outside of you—is it’s pristine neutrality. Were it not so, we would not all be able to draw our own unique conclusions. This conclusion-drawing leads to a lot of war and broken marriages, but I actually think this is a small price to pay. The alternative is a form of slavery, chaining ourselves to a perspective outside our own heart. Freedom requires great responsibility, and the first freedom, perhaps the only freedom, is not just the right but in fact the requirement that we decide something for ourselves. Only a neutral world would allow this. So rejoice in the blank canvas of life. Nothing is ever anything until you say it is so.

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