I know what you’re thinking. The title of this post sounds like a crazy hippie proverb.
Well… You aren’t wrong.
I mean, who would be crazy enough to talk about words like they’re some sort of living entity? What sane person would argue that the writer doesn’t control the writing, but rather the writing controls the writer? Who could even begin to debate the fact that words have a mind of their own?
That would be me.
Don’t worry, I’m not actually insane (well, not officially). My argument does, in fact, make sense, and I’m not trying to say anything too crazy or far-fetched.
What I’m trying to say is, you can’t force the words to be one thing when they want to be another.
Confused? How about an example from my writing:
I just posted a poem of mine called “Imagine.” I already wrote most of what I’m about to say about it in the note at the bottom, but I’m going to guess that you probably didn’t read it. If you did, you’re awesome! A+ for you! If you didn’t, don’t worry. I’m going to restate it anyway.
Before I started writing the poem, I had already thought about what I wanted to write to an extent. It seemed pretty obvious. A world without color. Defintiely a bad idea.
But as I was writing the poem, I found myself writing about the opposite. I tried writing my original idea, but my mind refused to give me the words. If you’ve ever fought with your own mind before, you know exactly how it felt.
If you haven’t, let me tell you, it is not fun.
I take pride in the fact that I am an exceedingly stubborn person, but I’ve learned from experience that it’s not worth it to fight against your own mind. So I gave in and wrote what wanted to be written.
The results were better than I ever could have imagined.
I know, I know! Sometimes you have to write about something specific or write in a particular format, usually for a class or a project. I get it. I’ve gone through that. But even then, this rule applies.
In a situation where you’re required to write a certain thing or in a certain format, great. Write it the way you’re supposed to. But at some point—while you’re writing, when you reach major checkpoints, even when you complete your first draft—read through the whole piece. This is important: you need to look at the piece as a whole to see if and where things fit. Otherwise, your final draft will sound disconnected.
As you read, delete everything that doesn’t seem right. Even if it’s well-written and presents a good point, get rid of it. Be very picky. If you question something, try changing the wording before you get rid of it. If it’s a larger section that you spent a lot of time on, you can always copy it to a different document and go back to it later. Just don’t cling to anything.
If you only end up with one well-thought-out point, that’s fine. Try to find a way to split it up into more points and expand on it. Then continue the process from above.
I know that’s a lot to take in, so here are the two key points you should take away from this:
- Always choose quality over quantity. Don’t just throw in facts and words because they sound smart. They’ll sound quite a bit less intelligent in the end. Stick to what actually sounds and feels right. Bonus: It’ll also flow better in the end if you stick to quality!
- Trust your instincts. Sure, they might guide you wrong sometimes, but usually they’re right. The more you trust, the more you’ll listen, and the better everything will turn out in the end!
Picture source: Ivoh