As a writer, you are bound to be a language lover and enjoy the infinite combinations that produce a unique effect, striving for the occasional strike of reaching the near-magical.
You continuously learn words, perhaps obsessively dive into etymologies, underline admired phrases by other authors, and practice weaving words in the quest of developing your own style.
It’s not unlikely that you also write down sentences and paragraphs by others and read them aloud, enjoying their delicious taste which sometimes feels as if they’ve come from another, unknown and better universe.
Overreaching Equals Hardcore Sales
That’s all too well. I am one of you. I do all those things and yet often I run into writers who make a big overreach. You read their sentences and you understand what they want to say. But somehow rather than admiring them for the vocabulary they’ve developed or the effort they’ve invested into (un)tangling their thoughts, you are left with the feeling of unsophistication.
It’s not about pretentiousness or high style; it’s about overdoing it. The best comparison to this kind of writing will probably be of hard-core salespeople.
In sales, tiny, unnoticeable things make all the difference: whether you act as an advisor, whether you push too hard or just the right amount, whether you press down, negotiate or put your foot down. Small subtleties are the dividing line between being in league A, B or C.
Of course, comparing art to sales is unjust, because of art’s complex nature. In a way, though, it speaks all the more about the importance of details. Every word matters. Two big words in a six-word sentence can be costly.
Be A Natural
So, how to know when you’re overdoing it? If something comes naturally to you, then by all means do it. It is who you are. It is how you write; mutatis mutandis.
I’m pretty sure that Proust naturally wrote one sentence per page, and Shakespeare’s primary concern wasn’t to use as many words as possible or to be known as the biggest vocabulary user in the history of the English language.
Try and avoid pumping your writing. Yes, the rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t use the same word/phrase in a paragraph. This doesn’t suggest that you should insert the most complicated synonym in the Thesaurus.
The artificial can be sensed by its plasticity; the natural, on the other hand, spreads its scent in all directions.
The purpose of ornamentation, in all spheres, is to beautify. Overdoing it, though, inevitably leads to kitsch.
For fifteen minutes write about something you find kitsch (a certain book, fashion style, a building, historical period etc.). Include the reasons you find it kitsch, describe the feeling it evokes in you. When you’re done, post your practice in the comments.
As usual, kindly support others’ practices with your honest feedback.