Several Short Sentences About Writing

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9780307279415: Several Short Sentences About Writing

An indispensable and distinctive book that will help anyone who wants to write, write better, or have a clearer understanding of what it means for them to be writing, from widely admired writer and teacher Verlyn Klinkenborg.
 
Klinkenborg believes that most of our received wisdom about how writing works is not only wrong but an obstacle to our ability to write. In Several Short Sentences About Writing, he sets out to help us unlearn that “wisdom”—about genius, about creativity, about writer’s block, topic sentences, and outline—and understand that writing is just as much about thinking, noticing, and learning what it means to be involved in the act of writing. There is no gospel, no orthodoxy, no dogma in this book. Instead it is a gathering of starting points in a journey toward lively, lucid, satisfying self-expression.

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About the Author:

Verlyn Klinkenborg is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times, to which he also contributes meditations about his farm in upstate New York, collected in The Rural Life. His other books include Making Hay, The Last Fine Time, and Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile. Klinkenborg has a Ph.D. in English literature from Princeton University.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

*
 
Your job as a writer is making sentences.
Most of your time will be spent making sentences in your head.
In your head.
Did no one ever tell you this?
That is the writer's life.
Never imagine you've left the level of the sentence behind.
 
Most of the sentences you make will need to be killed.
The rest will need to be fixed.
This will be true for a long time.
The hard part now is deciding which to kill and which
to fix and how to fix them.
This will get much, much easier, but the decision making  will never end.
 
*

As you practice noticing, notice how thickly particled
with names the world around you is.
This will gradually become part of your noticing,
looking not for words to make us see the way you saw--
But for the names of what you've noticed.
Names that announce the whatness of the world to a single species.
 
It's hard to grasp at first the density, the specificity
With which the world has been named.
This is a planet of overlapping lexicons,
Generation after generation, trade after trade,
Expedition after expedition sent out to bring home
Name upon name, terms of identity in endless degrees of intimacy,
And all at hand, if you look for them.
 
*
 
In the syntax and rhythm of sentences,
In the page of thought, the intensity of movement,
The crescendo and decrescendo,
The trustworthy reader learns the writer's habitude and how to move with it.
You converse, in a sense, with the voice on the other side of the ink.
 
The kind of reading is the pleasure of being summoned out of ourselves by the grace,
The ferocity, the skill of the writing before us.
How else to explain our love of even difficult writers?
Their agility evokes our agility.
We move at their speed, elliptically, obliquely,
However they move.

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