The best truth about writing

writing on bananas

Pro writing tip: it’s actually more fun to write on a butternut squash

Aspiring writers, take note. The best truth about writing is actually nothing to do with using fruit or veg instead of paper. Though that is an excellent idea (especially as an alternative greetings card).

The best truth is actually even better than that – it’s deeper and it will help you out a lot more.

And of course, like most good things, I didn’t think of this myself. It was actually a copywriter called David Abbot that showed me – not in person but through his writing. He died this month and you can read all about him here. I’ll let his words do the talking…

I am a fast writer and in a sense I am not interested in words. I don’t own a Thesaurus, I don’t do crosswords and my dictionary has pictures in it. Words, for me, are the servants of the argument and on the whole I like them to be plain, simple and familiar.

What David is saying here is huge to me. As a writer of many things, I’ve learnt different rules – I’ve even put some of them on this blog. “Write shorter, write simpler” I say. But I don’t think I really understood why until I read that quote yesterday.

When you are writing anything, the words come second. They come second to the idea you’re explaining, second to the argument you’re making and second to the story you’re telling.

There’s no point using fancy vocab to gift-wrap a turd.

Words are the tools that bring to life your concepts and your characters. But if you’ve just got words, you’ve got nothing.

I think we all sort of know that deep down, but isn’t it nice to have it spelled out?

It’s so easy to get lost in a good metaphor or throw one impressive adjective too many. But so often these things can actually take something away from the point we’re making.

I like words to be plain, simple and familiar.

That little quote is actually quite hard to hear. Because so often I want my words to be wise, witty and elaborate. I guess that’s my ego talking.

I know deep down that most of life’s joys are pretty simple. So that’s really how I want my words to be.

I love words – I like them fancy and I like them plain. But I always want them to add up to something. I want to bring life to tired concepts and tell important stories.

Sure, a part of me wants to force-feed you complex metaphors and flowery description, but thanks to David Abbott I’ll be doing less of that now.

Happy double-post Friday everybody.