This is a superb little article on writing. I myself have been saying for a very long time that most writing advice, especially most modern writing advice, is absolute bullshit and entirely contradictory to the idea of both writing well and of communicating anything worthwhile at all.
Now whereas I don’t agree that writing is all about, or at least not solely about, the “Observational trick,” it is a far better observation than most modern ones on writing.
At the very best the best any writing advice can do is encapsulate an extremely narrow range of ideas about how it is possible to efficiently communicate in a certain way (it can in no way exhaust the possibilities), therefore no such advice can ever produce genius or even real ability. And the Truth is that both genius and real ability tend to far eclipse any advice that could possibly be given about either.
Hemingway may have said it best…, no on second thought he didn’t, he said it best for Hemingway, but even Hemingway was no Shakespeare now was he? No, he wasn’t. There is a very good reason Shakespeare is the most quoted writer in the history of the English language and it has absolutely nothing to do with Hemingway’s writing advice. As a matter of fact it has a great deal to do with the very opposite of Hemingway’s writing advice. And that is also very likely why there is no modern equivalent of Shakespeare, because modern people are herdish and extremely easy to fool. Just give them all a popular, unchallenged fashionable theory to imitate and by God, come hell or high water, they’ll dig their own grave and happily and uncritically lie down in it to prove the theory.
I’m glad to see the revolt against this narrow minded, small imagined bullshit beginning. It’s long, long, long overdue.
So endeth the trick…
“What’s the secret to writing well? As I’ve said previously here, an awful lot of people seem to think they know, yet their “rules for writers” are almost always (pardon the technical linguistics jargon) bullshit. For example, “Show, don’t tell” is frequently bad advice. In the right context, the passive voice is fine. Elmore Leonard’s most famous rule, “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue”, is sheer silliness. Even the sainted Orwell’s rules are a bit rubbish: the final one is, “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous”, which means his advice is really just “Don’t write barbarically”. So it doesn’t bode well that the psychologist Steven Pinker is to publish his own advice book, The Sense Of Style, later this year. Judging by a recent interview at edge.org, however, this one might be different. Writing, Pinker points out, is inherently a psychological phenomenon, “a way that one mind can cause ideas to happen in another mind”. So one place to begin is with actual psychology.”