I believe I am committing a heinous crime. As a writer, I am writing about how to write, but I am not writing. It may be great for me in the long run–gulping up huge bits of writing wisdom, but I think I need to start writing more now, so I can learn to write better later. Critics say to write, read, but even more, they say, to write . . . . write. And do it frequently.
So here is a summary for Clark’s next few tools.
Tool 21 ~ Know when to back off and when to show off.
“When the topic is most serious, understate; when least serious, exaggerate.”
Tool 22 ~ Climb up and down the ladder of abstraction.
“Learn how to show, when to tell, and when to do both.”
I haven’t heard of the ladder of abstraction before, but apparently S. I. Hayakawa made it famous in his Language in Action (1939). I find it fascinating and very helpful. A ladder–it sits on the ground, and I can feel the grungy wood, bitter beneath my fingers. Abstraction–something beyond the clouds, perched beside freedom, “gratuitous inventions” and literacy (108). Clark says to either stick to the ground with “bloody knives and rosary beads” or dance in the clouds with all the abstractions. Just please stay clear of the stagnant middle-land, crammed with “full-time equivalents (teachers) and “instructional units (school lessons)” (107).
Tool 23 ~ Tune your voice.
“Voice is an effect created by the writer that reaches the reader through his ears, even when he is receiving the message through his eyes” (112).
“Read stories aloud.”
I realized I needed to do more reading out loud a few weeks ago. Immersed mid-stride in a Life of Dante presentation, I stumbled over my own sentences and hit broadside every punctuation and spelling error. It looked perfectly normal–before I began reading it out loud to the entire class. Sigh.