Simplicity is an art—one that requires hard work to grasp and watchdog-like diligence to maintain.
It is necessary too, especially in writing.
Readers are able to follow along with what is present on a given page, without feeling perplexed, annoyed and sick to death of the one who penned the trash their eyes have been subjected to for the past 10 minutes.
Honestly, it doesn’t even take minutes for the aforementioned sentiments to settle within a reader, since the initial graf is, in all seriousness, everything.
Regardless of what genre of writing the work belongs to, the opening either enables the writer to hit an in-field double from the jump or swing and miss, with the smooth maple tip of the Louisville Slugger nipping one in the back of the head because of bad mechanics and execution.
So many BS-laced moves can bring about the latter, as it doesn’t take much to receive a dubious stamp of disapproval that basically reads, “You Lose, Son.”
And because I received multiple markings conveying the above-mentioned tear-inducer a few days ago, I know what it feels like to be smacked against the dome and, subsequently, dropped face first into the dirt.
In an essay detailing an overly complex and ambiguous topic that revolves around two characters, I made the assignment much more complicated than it needed to be.
The opening sentence of the work reads, “Unleashing the din and extremely fermented inclinations that lie within, Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin and Herman Koch’s The Dinner present sinister accounts that illustrate every parent’s worst nightmare: a child who revels in bloodshed.”
It sucks, I know.
And of course, the instructor let me know, writing in comment banks parallel to the introductory paragraph, “What? This makes no sense…” going on and on and on.
Were my feelings hurt? Yes, and when we met for class recently, every time she spoke my head dipped farther into the screen of my tablet, which displayed NCAA Tournament action between UNC and Wisconsin.
I’ve spent days sulking over the grade I received and what the quality of work I’d put forth, because I’m certainly capable of doing much, much better, when I’m focused.
But she made a comment in the document that resonates with everything, admonishing me to keep it simple.
Now, I can’t remember her exact words, and I don’t want to log into my school account to retrieve it, because gray clouds will immediately rest above my head.
Nonetheless, simplicity is the all-important tenet.
It’s something, I feel, I have fallen away from, resulting in embarrassing prose filled with ill-fitting vocabulary and left-field ideas, which are okay if they are supported by hard-hitting evidence and commentary.
I had made clean, simplistic, focused prose my calling card, something anyone who had ever read my work knew to expect.
Somehow, I fell into the abyss, thinking that complexity equates to excellence, and it doesn’t.
Introducing sharp, thought-provoking ideas through easy-to-digest language, that’s how excellence, or something close to it, is reached.
Hopefully I can remember that.