Writing, Reading, and Smiling . . . It's Contagious.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Keep It Simple

A SONG SPARROW lives in the giant pines trees on our farm. 

For the past six weeks it has bombarded us with a daily jumble of noisy trills and warbles beginning before six in the morning and lasting until the first star appears at twilight.

No, seriously. The constant jabber lasts from dawn to dusk. Without interruption. Without regard for etiquette and without regard for sanity. 

In the beginning I was hypnotized by its persistence. The insane mix of calls lasts for about four seconds with a two second pause before starting all over again. That's about 600 calls every hour and over 9,000 calls each day. My fascination turned to annoyance long before the 100th.

I've noticed the annoyance of other birds, as well. At first they tried to sing over it. That didn't work, so they tried knocking it from its perch on the spindly tip of a pine tree. That didn't work either, so they resorted to their last defense: running away. I haven't heard another bird on the farm for over four weeks.

You can label the sparrow's pervasiveness as determination, resource management, or loneliness, but among these possibilities is the underlying fact that each one leads to the same conclusion: in its attempt to gain territory it's losing ground.

Gain territory. Lose ground. Oxymoron? Not at all.

Have you been around people who remind you of my song sparrow? They talk and talk and talk and you never have to say a word. You nod during the short pauses—inserted for breathing only—and pretend to listen. After a while you make a believable excuse—if you can somehow manage to get a word in—and leave while your sanity and good manners are intact. 

I know this is a writing blog, so I'll ask a relevant question. Have you been around writers who remind you of my song sparrow? They tweet and yak, blog and write, and scream and shout of their wisdom and success. Without interruption. Without regard for etiquette and without regard for sanity. 

Here's another relevant question: Have you read writing so inflated with extravagance—whether it be through words, setting, or characterization—that you either couldn't get past the first paragraph or you had to skim it? The author uses flowery/scholarly words, indiscernible settings/symbols that are metaphors for something you'll never figure out, and bizarre characterizations that alienate rather than  entice. Without interruption. Without regard for etiquette and without regard for sanity. 

For fear of becoming a song sparrow myself, I'll leave you with this thought: If you're writing to engage, keep it witty, keep it understandable, and keep it simple. 

Oh, and if you're shouting, turn the volume down so the rest of us can get some sleep. :^)


As always, I love to hear from you.
If you’re in the cyber-neighborhood, drop me a line.

In the meantime, keep writing, reading, and smiling.
It’s contagious.


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