Ghandi wrote this in his autobiography:

“My hesitancy in speech, which was once an annoyance, is now a pleasure.  Its greatest benefit has been that it has taught me the economy of words.  I have naturally formed the habit of restraining my thoughts.  And I can now give myself the certificate that a thoughtless words hardly ever escapes my tongue or pen.  I do not recollect ever having had to regret anything in my speech or writing.  I have thus spared many a mishap and waste of time.A man of few words will rarely be thoughtless in his speech; he will measure every word.”

This agrees with Zinsser’s On Writing Well where he said:

“Clutter is the disease of American writing.  We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.”

I think most writers feel this is good advice.  However, there is a lot to be said about the technique discussed in Mark Levy’s Accidental Genius, in which he encourages what he calls “freewriting”.  Freewriting is basically writing as fast as you can, using a timer to encourage speed, and just pouring out your thoughts without stopping or even going back to correct errors.  The purpose of is to write for yourself, with the goal of solving problems, brainstorming and encouraging creativity (although he does mention that later the ideas you generate could be edited and used for blogs and books).

Levy’s method makes a lot of sense.  I tried it today, and the effect is exhilarating.  If you are a writer, you know how hard it can be to get sentences on the page if you are thinking too much about how to construct them while you write.  Worrying about grammar, being concise and avoiding redundancy can restrict the flow of thoughts. Freewriting can be used to ‘dump eighteen pounds of words onto paper,’ as Levy puts it, and then edit away later.

Even then, too much editing could hide the real “you” and I think the reader can sense it somehow.  I mean, in “real life” I tend to babble.  I’m not Ghandi (and certainly no Zinsser).   Bloggers like Penelope Trunk babble like crazy, but people love her.  Maybe because most people tend to babble, too.

What do you think?

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