In a writing workshop recently, we were deep into pontification.
Line by line, we parsed and considered, and just as I thought I couldn’t bear any more intellectualizing, the instructor said, “That’s a bullshit writer phrase.”
I could have kissed her in relief.
Yes, we take ourselves too seriously. Yes, I’m talking to you, and me, and the writer three seats back with a laborious way of saying a long draw of nothing. Writers of the world, please give these phrases a rest:
What’s at stake?
Did you earn that ending?
I believe the author’s intent . . .
Where’s the arc?
As writers and readers, we naturally desire to go beyond the surface. Of course. We want to dig deep. We want to learn — how did they do that? what works? what doesn’t? how can I apply this to my own writing? — and that’s good. But too often we drain the life out of the pure and joyful act of reading and writing.
Sure, it’s a fun intellectual exercise to contemplate the placement of a comma — fun, if you enjoy root canals and, say, a conference of engineers — but at some point you gotta get out of analytics and into the actual act of your very own writing.
This isn’t a call for less intellect. This is a plea for less pretentious pondering.
Are you with me here?
What b**#!^*#t phrases are wearing you down?