Let's begin with an imaginary trip to the office supply store. I love these places, don't you? I love the copier-ink scent they all have and the rows and rows of pens, paper, and binders. I always feel safe inside when I leave Office Depot with my Brother's TN-350 ink cartridge under my arm. "There," I say to myself. "Now you can use your copier and print out that story! All's right with the world again."
Ah, office supply stores. You gotta love them. If only they served pizza and ice cream and allowed dancing, they'd be perfect!
As a child, my favorite part of preparing for the upcoming school year was buying the supplies I would need for class. (Okay, so I also liked getting cute shoes and Bonnie Bell lip gloss, too.) But pencils. No.2 Ticonderoga pencils to be exact. Think of the freshly-chopped wood smell they make when you first sharpen them. Brand spanking new pencils are awesome. They bring out your optimistic side and open your mind to possibilities. And how about clean college-ruled paper? Is there anything better for an excited writer than its cool, smooth whiteness sitting there on your desk in that Mead spiral notebook?
I will stop waxing rhapsodic about writing implements, but before I do, I'd like to ask the burning questions. Which writing tools do you like best? Do you enjoy office supply stores as much as I do? Phew. Now that I've got those tricky inquiries out of the way, we can move on to bigger things.
I took the title of this post from Strunk and White's Elements Of Style. I know what you're thinking. It is sacrilegious to mention William Strunk jr. when I have just used the word gotta in a previous paragraph. I hope Mr. Strunk will forgive me. I think he might. Even as an English professor at Cornell in 1919, he appeared to have a keen sense of humor. To quote from the introduction of E. Of S. . . .
"When he delivered his oration on brevity to the class, he leaned forward over his desk, grasped his coat lapels in his hands, and in a husky, conspiratorial voice, said, 'Rule Seventeen. Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.'"
I want to make each of my words tell. This might be hard to believe since I just spent a ridiculous amount of time praising school supplies and the stores that sell them, but it's true. Is it easy for you to be concise? Do you have a difficult time sticking to the bones of a story? Does it hurt when you edit and cut out unnecessary sections of your work? (Ouchy! Consider that last question rhetorical. We all know it hurts.)
Tell me what you think about making each word count.
(P.S. The muse is off vacationing in the Outer Hebrides.)