Paper Worms

From my 2017 journal:

I very much know how little “very” contributes to my writing, and yet I want to keep it, just like I want to keep every magazine and newspaper, and every piece of children’s homework, and all their art, and their cute little paper worms for which I have no use and no room to store, really (really—also not a big contributor). But I want them anyway. Like they say, the heart wants what it wants.

From my 2019 journal:

There is nothing like editing someone else’s writing to help you understand the problems inherent to your own. Today I edited a passage written by a self-help guru. I liked what he had to say, but the passage was too long. I copied it to my computer, then removed all the unnecessary words and sentences, including the majority of adverbs, single-word sentences and sentence fragments (e.g., “Why?” and “Done.”), weak reiterations, and sentence-starting conjunctions (“and,” “but,” “yet,” etc.).

My edits not only shortened the passage significantly. They also made it easier to read and more powerful. Concise text is good text.

The parts that I removed were the author’s particular verbal tics, and less of his personality shows through the text now. That’s why I’ve been so resistant to editing my own writing as harshly. Like any author, I want my personality to show. It had just never occurred to me until now that my tics weren’t displaying the best part of it. That author’s tics were not doing him any favors. Mine aren’t helping me either. They’re like paper worms. A couple are cute. The rest are clutter.

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