My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Chris Brecheen's Fortune Cookie Wisdom for Writers Part II

Part 1 of Fortune Cookie Wisdom

If your dreams are idle fantasies, they will rip to shreds in the first real gusts of adversity.  If they are true, they will endure through the years, weather any storm, and you will be willing to work for them.

Telling an artist to get to work is not discouraging them.  Neither is pointing out that an artist is NOT actually working.  Artists often react very badly to the feeling of boot shaped leather in their rectum, as if someone is trying to take their dreams away or tell them not to do art.  This is deflection couched in chic vernacular that sounds new age inspirational.   Really, the opposite is true.  The greatest gift an artist can have is someone to tell them to get sweaty, someone who will tell them to quit talking about it, and someone to call bullshit on their bullshit.  Someone with an ass-seeking boot missile is your bestest bud because this is really telling an artist that the path to their dreams isn't going to pave itself.

No matter how much you hate hardcore prescriptivism within linguistics, just let people correct your grammar.  It makes them feel better about themselves, and fewer discussions could be so incredibly predictable and ultimately inutile.  Just say thank you, and fix it if you're wrong (or cheerfully ignore them if it was either a choice or you're working off a different style guide).  Let them have their grammatical version of the well actually.

Everyone needs an editor.  The people who don't think they do, almost universally need them the most.  Seriously!

Making every sentence (or every other sentence) its own paragraph is as bad as having one huge paragraph in terms of your reader trying to chunk information.  It's totally okay to have a one sentence paragraph, but you do so for emphasis.  If you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.

There is a constant and pervasive effort by many to draw the distinction between art (or "high art") and entertainment, and yet the greatest artists of all time have almost universally been the ones who absolutely refuse to acknowledge that distinction.

Reading Shakespeare (400 years ago) usually needs footnotes.  Chaucer (600 years ago) is almost incomprehensible without a translation.  These are both English.  Language changes.  It evolves.  Words and their meanings change too or I might tell you not to be so "nice" about your understanding of linguistics.  Insisting that language should remain static, and that we should all write according to Ambrose Bierce means that you are over a quarter the way to needing footnotes to be understood and one sixth the way to needing a translator.  YOU are the one not communicating well.

Consider other's intentions over the results of their actions.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  It's a world of intentionalist lenses, identity politics, linguistic hyperfocus, and things taken out of context.  Insisting that other people are wrong about what they meant is a waste of spirit.  Actually communicate with them.

Consider the results of your actions over your intentions.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  It's a world of intentionalist lenses, identity politics, linguistic hyperfocus, and things taken out of context.  Insisting that other people are wrong about what your words meant is a waste of spirit.  Actually communicate with them.

Most writers need to learn to cut.  They need to learn to trust their readers to get things.  They need to learn that they have multiple scenes doing the same thing. Mostly they need to learn that their every word is not the dripping golden ambrosia they think it is and get rid of those fuckers.

Don't let your modifiers dangle.   Danglers are bad (unless you've negotiated it ahead of time and have a safe word).

More fortune cookie wisdom.


  1. Some of these would need some pretty big cookies to fit inside.

    1. True. Though this comment made me think of the Twinkie in Ghostbusters for some reason.

      "In order to contain the verbosity of Chris, this fortune cookie would have to be thirty-five feet long and weigh over six-hundred pounds."

      "That's a big fortune cookie."