the more things stay the same, the more i want them to change

Caution: extreme wordiness within!

Lately I have become frustrated with the wordiness of my writing. My favorite authors in my formative years were Anne Rice and Charles Dickens, both of whom are exceptionally wordy. This definitely rubbed off on me. I think it's mostly that in my mind, there is a certain cadence when writing/reading that is especially appealing when you use more long words and make your sentences longer. My internal reader absolutely hates simple or short sentences. In fact, I just added the words "or short" to that last sentence so that it would feel "balanced".*

Unfortunately, this makes me a terrible editor of my own writing. Working so hard to find balance in each sentence, provides a sort of harmony between my thoughts and what I've written. The effect of this is that I strongly feel all my sentences are perfect, with the exception of type-Os and mispellings.

Also frustrating is my tendency to over-explain myself for the sake of clarity. I feel it is absolutely vital when I write or say something that my audience understands exactly what I am trying to say. I am the Queen of Rephrasing. I think I'm actually worse when I'm talking, but right now I'm talking about writing. The result is that I spew forth every fact I can think of about the subject. As an example, something as mundane as relaying a bad driving experience cannot be done in 1, 2, or even 3 sentences. I have to describe the other car in every detail I can remember, every emotion I had during the encounter, the driving conditions like weather and other traffic, even what's playing on the damn radio! What's worse is that I have this need to relay all the facts in the order that they happened.

Let's say a guy cut me off on the highway in such a way that I feared for my safety. I would first describe what I was doing right before it happened, describe the encounter itself, describe the side details, describe my emotions. Then I would move on to describing what happened at the conclusion, my emotions at the end of it, and any result of the experience to the world around me like the other drivers slowing down too - including the number of drivers who slowed down as a result, vs. how many didn't seem to notice at all. And then, finally, I would summarize, probably by repeating my emotions via rephrasing.

Seriously, WTF? Whenever I take a call at work that needs to be transferred to someone else, I try to describe everything I know about the caller with precise phrasing to make the other person more likely to take the call. This took me years to figure out, and I might never have realized it if an old boss hadn't been constantly impatient about everything. After years of hand-gestures to wrap it up, and the occassional plea for summarization, it finally dawned on me that I am incapable of summarization!

I remember a particular assignment in high school where I had to write a summary of a chapter in history for my group buddies. The only way I could summarize was by cutting each sentence down to just verbs and nouns. Every sentence. Of every paragraph. On every page in an entire chapter!

Over the past few years, I have occasionally tried to work on my wordiness. But the reasons for it are still there, so it's very difficult. Today I attempted to email my family a humorous response to a mundane email. But I realized that they might take me seriously, so then I had to describe the extenuating circumstances. Then I realized that my email wasn't the least bit humorous anymore, regardless of the smiley face after the first sentence. So I deleted all of my explanation, and just sent off the original "funny" part. A response came back that humorously pointed out a problem of what I had said. I immediately felt dumb for having deleting my explanation, so I emailed my explanation to her at that point. At the end of the email, I wrote the words: "I'm so frustrated with my need to over-explain everything!". But once again, I thought this might be confusing, so I deleted that sentence and sent the email.

Then I began this long diatribe that single sentence inspired in me.

Crap! I've over-explained my over-explainy-ness! Here's a fun game: print this out and cross out every extraneous word used that could have been left out. What, that doesn't sound fun to you?

*I think this may have something to do with my synesthesia, a neurological oddity where you senses get crossed together. I have "visual motion -> sound synesthesia", meaning I hear sounds when I see motion. Some people have a form called "ordinal linguistic personification", where words, letters, or numbers have "personalities". The way I hear a cadence in my head as I write is in part a sound, but also a "feeling" that is almost tactile.

1 comments:

Mary said...

Now I'm wondering if I have what you have, I'm a super wordy person too and it's because I need to make things I write sound "right" to me. I hate short sentences, they drive me nuts. I've always known that I'm wordy and my favorite authors are wordy too. Apparently you and I have a lot in common, lol!

I was looking at your jewelry and now I wish I had more money, you have two necklaces that I want! :)

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