What Are You Saying With All Those Words?
Upon receiving a letter from a schoolgirl in America (who, by her teacher’s suggestion, requested advice on writing), C.S. Lewis wrote to her eight pieces of advise. They’re all wonderful, but one in particular stuck with me this morning as I was re-reading the letter:
“(4) Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else. (Notice this means that if you are interested only in writing, then you will never be a writer, because you will have nothing to write about . . .)”
We cannot forget what we’re trying to say when we’re trying to say it. Sometimes, we focus too much on the technicalities of our craft and forget what we were trying to say in the first place. I still strongly believe that the technicalities are important, agreeing with Lewis when he says in tip number five, “Take great pains to be clear.” We all need to strive for that, and it requires looking closely at the writing itself. But if you’re too caught up in writing a wonderful sentence, the meaning of the sentence can easily escape you. The best kind of editing not only makes the writing itself clear, but what you’re saying even clearer. Know the rules of your craft—master them—but do not forget what you are trying to say in your painting, in your photo, in your music. Beautiful art is nothing without meaning.