Dear Wordy Writers. Like Me
Recently, another blogger> teacher contacted me asking if she could quote me in a piece — and I said sure, why not? I don’t mind people using my words any day of the week and I’d love to be of support to others.
But then she went on and turned my complete article of say 8 minutes read into just a paragraph. Not that I didn’t like it but rather it was as complete as a whole article. What was there to add? Did I just use many words for no reason?
For that accusation I know its true. A teacher once used my composition as “How not to write“. The message that was intended versus the message that I got are probably disjointed, but it played into my own insecurity that because I’m a wordy writer, my writing was being used as an example of what not to do in writing. I know that the teacher didn’t intend for the question to be taken as an insult, but I couldn’t help but do a deep introspection.
So recently I came across an an article about William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway on telegraph and it really captured my interest having read a book or two by both writers their feud made sense.
Does being a wordy writer make me a bad writer?
I don’t know. I really don’t. I know I’m no Hemingway. I know that I don’t edit out more adjectives and adverbs than I should. I could definitely say my message with less words.
Since I was in primary school English class, my teachers told me to use less words and eliminate superfluous language,
if you check both my high school and primary compositions it won’t be a shock to see a lot of red lines — and I tried, but it just didn’t feel natural. It didn’t sound like me. I didn’t write like me.
So I just gave up on the whole battle between more words vs. less words. I took the “less is more” philosophy towards writing as dogma, and yet I found myself constantly at the opposite side of the spectrum. I can easily write a 100-word sentence. I resonate much more with William Faulkner’s writing than I do Hemingway’s.
It’s not because I’m pretentious, but because, like a Jackson Pollack painting, I love to just splatter the words in my mind onto the page and I struggle to kill the words that were once meaningful to me, that I once thought.
I don’t know if I’m a good writer. But I do know that I use a lot of words and probably can cut a lot of them out of my writing. I just choose not to as a matter of personal preference.
Does my stubbornness make me a bad writer?
Well, no. We all have different styles and we shouldn’t just do what other “writing gurus” tell us to do simply because we believe they have the authority. Do you know who has the biggest authority on your writing? You, and only you. If you choose to include sentences that are longer and that use complicated language — that’s your choice. If you choose to do the opposite, that’s your choice too.
William Faulkner, as opposed to the Hemingway style of writing, once said that “[he] has no courage, has never crawled out on a limb to use a word that might cause a reader to check with a dictionary to see if it is properly used.” He said those words of Hemingway while mocking him and John Steinbeck as two of his top five all-time writers. Hemingway, himself a hypercompetitive person, would reply:
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”
Hemingway would go on to imply that Faulker was an alcoholic whose talent went astray (ironic, right?), but the two of them did not communicate very much directly. Their commentary was traded mostly between other writers and critics. Hemingway would imply in 1945 that Faulkner lacked artistic discipline and that he wanted to “train” Faulkner. Faulkner would similarly refuse to have Hemingway write the introduction to one of his books, using the analogy of asking one racehorse in a race to broadcast for another.
Anyways, people who write more like Faulkner and people who write more like Hemingway will always be at odds with what’s the best way to write. But I find solace in the fact that the more conservative use for words isn’t the only model out there.
Discipline — I would just like to point out how much I hate the whole concept of discipline. If someone is most creative and least constrained not being disciplined and not feeling like they have to operate under the structure of a cage, why not let them? Why not let the wordy writers write the way they best communicate instead of trying to have a writing identity that’s not them?
So, being a wordy writer does not mean that you’re a bad writer, just that you’re different from more word-conservative writers. Different isn’t always better, but different is just different, and the writing world has enough room for appreciating stylistic diversity than any — so, as more a follower of Faulkner than Hemingway, I’m proud of being a wordy writer.
That’s who I am, and for the foreseeable future, that’s who I always will be, and I refuse to bend and mold to the writing identity of someone I’m not, just because it’s a popular convention.