Restrained, elegant prose

“And the writing,” a well-respected writer (published by a real publisher) said. “It flows with restraint. Elegant. A demonstration of showing, but not telling.”

I paraphrase, of course, but I had been waiting for this, for a long time. Not explicitly, of course. Yet, when I read other people’s works, mostly the published work, I feel this itchy jealousy inch up my hands, my arms, my shoulders, my neck, to the tip of my head. It’s green and slimy. And all it says to me, “Why can’t I write like them? why can’t I elevate like them?”

In the past few years, I have learned that I am great at emulating great works. I read a short story or a novel…and with just a sleight of hand, I am able to make a story of my own using the same voice as the writer of the short story. Perhaps it’s angry and obnoxious. A story of drunkenness and losing way. I make it into a similar story of paranoia and losing way. Perhaps it’s the bareness of technology and its impact on humanity. I update the short story to our current age, inserting appropriate devices here and there.

I am stumped by vocabulary. Words slip by me so frequently. Big long words that seem hard to pronounce. For what it’s worth, I scored higher on my math SAT than my verbal SAT, back when it wasn’t cluttered by a composition essay. And so I find myself trapped in the words that I use every day, unable to find myself flowing in a river of letters moving back and worth. But what I have learned is that it’s craft. The heart of writing is about reflecting the emotion and articulating the emotions.

I know how to write dramatic moments well, because I see them like movie scenes. Where the emotions tense up and swell into an explosion in bullet time. The pieces fall so carelessly in all directions, one piece at a time flying and falling, crashing to the ground captured so intricately, so in detail by words on a page.

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