I offended my husband again today when he came to rest by my side on the bed while I was working on this blog post. After trying for a moment to write with him by my side, I accepted the truth I already knew, which is that I simply cannot compose anything good with anyone by my side; not even the person to whom I have vowed to share a number of important emotional and financial aspects of my life -- till death, no less.
My favorite book is every book, especially biographies about pirates and anything by Annie Lamott or Jhumpa Lahiri. But truly, my favorite book is the Elements of Style, and my favorite copy is the one my grandfather bought when he was teaching high school in the 1950s and gifted to me when I was in college.
The last chapter of the book is, like all standard reads, the most fulfilling one. Strunk and White finally get at the essence of what style means, as they see it:
"Style is an increment in writing. When we speak of Fitzgerald's style, we don't mean his command of the relative pronoun, we mean the sound his words make on paper. All writers, by the way they use the language, reveal something of their spirits, their habits, their capacities, and their biases. This is inevitable as well as enjoyable. All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation — it is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito."
It is, to be sure, an exercise in trust -- trust in the audience, trust in oneself -- to allow this Self to escape. Letting it out is hard enough work; but to have one alongside, especially one whose opinion is of value, is really too much entirely. There is modesty in the process, just trust it.
While I don't know if every writer is keen for privacy when composing, my guess is that a fair number of them are. We are, collectively, quite an introverted bunch, and as such, really enjoy solitude in healthy doses.
I'll leave it here; when I was a teacher, I often encouraged my students to err on the side of brevity. Don't write more just for the sake of writing. Say it right, and you won't have to say anything more.
Thanks for reading!