Creative writing: Remember the kaleidoscope and lighthouse

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, was published more than 100 years ago, yet it’s still considered as epitome of correct English usage.

Although some of the best writers break the rules. Writers like Virginia Woolf and H.G Wells played around with our perceptions of correct usage and so have more contemporary writers. Yet nobody would questions their lithe and flexible abilities.

Psychologist Steven Pinker recently wrote a moving essay that we need to stop pigeon-holing ourselves as writers and bloggers of a particular genre or niche. Instead we should think in broad strokes about weird and far-out associations, say for example between biology, psychology, linguistics, archaeology and literary criticism, etc.

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Breaking free of Medicalese, Corporatese and Academese

These methods of writing share a common obsession with the passive sentence construction. Although this enemy no.1 for sub-editors everywhere, the passive construction wouldn’t have survived for so long in our language, if it was completely pointless. Every living and breathing writing style has some meagre place in society. No matter how dry or banal the style may seem.

Badly written academese, corporatese and medicalese is a failure to get inside the head of the reader. It takes several additional jumps in understanding and bamboozles the audience as a result. It’s not highfalutin pretentious wankery, rather it’s just a misunderstanding about the readers’ levels of knowledge.

Refract The Light of Vision // Dispel The Darkness of Unknowing

Another theorist about language Francis-Noël Thomas, believes that the best writing comes from a combination of vision and conversation. This means that as a writer you need to be able to refract and magnify a vast array real world colour combinations and make this sing on paper. Along with this, you need to shine a light on dark places and through murky subjects, like a lighthouse beacon.

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This seemingly intimidating task isn’t so difficult, once you tap into that well-spring of creativity and word synthesis that exists innately within all of us.

When you write you should pretend that you, the writer, see something in the world that’s interesting, that you are directing the attention of your reader to that thing in the world, and that you are doing so by means of conversation. Steven Pinker, Writing in the 21st Century

 

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