November 17, 2009
I can’t find the exact quote, but when Paul Newman was on "Inside the Actors Studio" he said something like "If you always whisper you can’t make a point by whispering."
It’s as true in your writing as it is in acting. You need a dynamic range—you need to mix things up.
Look back at yesterday’s writing and make a list of how many words you have in each of your sentences. Although you will have a tendency to stay close to your average length, make sure that once in a while you break things up with a really short sentence or with one that goes on for a while. It helps.
With that in mind, look to vary the length of your sentences tomorrow when you write.
Also, look at how you structure each topic. Is it always the same? Some little introduction followed by an example and finished off with a discussion of the subtleties. You need to mix that up too.
It’s not just what you write but how you write. If you write slowly then resolve tomorrow to knock out four pages in an hour. You can always fix them later—see how it feels to write fast. If you already write quickly, take a day to write slow and pedantically. Take your time and don’t worry about how many words you produce.
You’re creating jazz. You need to both play with what’s come before and you need to play against it. Right now you’re jamming. Experiment. Take risks.
This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.