The Write Words Written Write

The most frustrating part of burning the candle at both ends is recognition of the negative affect upon my ability to do things that normally come easily to me. More often than not the words flow from my fingertips and land upon the page in an orderly fashion. I try to keep a simple philosophy to produce the write words written write. I am do not strive for complexity, just a beginning, middle and end.

Yet I find that after weeks of trying to live on four hours rest the great brain that is housed between my ears is not so great anymore. That is assuming that it really is there because I sometimes suspect that it was replaced with a cantaloupe or perhaps a colander. In the midst of this fatigue I like to believe that the lack of coherent thought can be easily corrected with a good cup of coffee.

At least that is the theory but in practice there is a legitimate question about whether it works. So I find myself seeking wisdom in the words of Mark Twain who I hold in great esteem. He was a very fine writer and I would be very pleased to one day write as well as he did.

And this my friends is why I love the Internet because I can point and click my way to places that provide the answers that I seek. This link leads to a treasure trove of a writer’s wisdom that makes my heart pound because I see that Twain and I had/have similar struggles in a variety of areas. That is not to say that I consider myself to be capable of creating the same constructs as Twain, but one never knows what can happen.

So I find myself staring at these quotes and trying to decide which to share with you. I stare and wrestle with words wondering which of these will best serve to help illustrate the points that I wish to make. I could provide a summary of his thoughts. I could share his concerns about his writing and how he too wanted the write words written write and how he advised others to write simply. It would be an accurate representation but it wouldn’t have the same impact as providing the quotes themselves so I am pleased to provide a selection of them for you to see.

Well, my book is written–let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn’t be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can’t ever be said. And besides, they would require a library–and a pen warmed up in hell.
– Letter to W. D. Howells, 22 Sept 1889 (referring to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court)

The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.
Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1902-1903

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself…Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph.
– Letter to Emeline Beach, 10 Feb 1868

I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.
– Letter to D. W. Bowser, 20 March 1880

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  1. TheJackB June 26, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    @columbiarose Twain was a master.

  2. columbiarose June 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Twain insists on wrestling with words until he can extract the most simplicity from the fewest syllables. He dares to look words in the eye, to the point that his style is distilled into solemn ritual. The rite words wrestled right.

  3. TheJackB June 25, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    @nancykirby Some might contest my humanity, but what do they know anyway. Not sure what happened to your comment. It shows up everywhere but here.

  4. TheJackB June 25, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    @Leon Leon, that is an outstanding quote and I think an excellent representation of Twain’s wit.

  5. nancykirby June 25, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Thanks for that, Jack. I loved the quotes, and most of all for confirming that you, too, are human. Prolific, yes, but human yet.

  6. Leon June 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    G’Day Jack,

    I’m sure you knew I’d be unable to resist. As a trainer, my favourite MT quote is “soap and education are not as sudden as massacre, but they are more deadly in the long run.”

    Enjoy Sunday



  7. TheJackB June 25, 2011 at 9:13 am

    @EveOne A steel sieve would probably work better for me. I might worry less about it falling apart. OTOH I might be worried about it getting rusty. 😉

    I am a confident writer. I know that most of the time my work will be good but I want it to be better than that. It is always reassuring to see that some of my writing heroes struggled with the same challenges.

    I like to read about them and see if I can learn from them.

  8. EveOne June 25, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Hahaha! Your image of your brain reminds me of what I say about myself, “I’ve got a mind like a steel sieve”…

    Great advice from one of the greats! I love Mark Twain…I think all the classic authors whose names we remember years and years, sometimes centuries after they’ve died , have all followed their version of this advice…lately I’ve found it so true, that the time to begin writing your article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction….another great post Jack!

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