Worth Saying Well

"It’s a unique way to process transactions between riders and drivers." This is an eleven word sentence that has absolutely no clear meaning. It could be referring to a "fee of a handshake" that might be imposed on the city buses. Or a new payment system in taxis that enables you to pay with something besides commonly accepted currency—like a five gallon can of gasoline, or a gift card. Maybe it's referring to a dated method of transportation (like horse-drawn carriages) coming back into vogue.

Because there is no defining language, it's almost impossible to judge what the sentence means. If you're going to write stand alone sentences, try to make them crystal clear—not clear as mud. It only takes a word or two more, and sometimes it even cuts the word count:

"Shaking hands to pay for city busses makes riders trust drivers more." (12 words)

"Taxi drivers love the new 'pay with a gallon' method of payment; full gas cans and gift cards accepted." (19 words)

"Horse and buggy travel is more relational than public transportation." (10 words)

It's not a burden to make your language clear and easy to understand; it just takes a little more thought and intentionality. If you're reading something that makes no sense, and has minimal explanation, two tricks to figure it out:

#) Look at the context. Even if a sentence seems to be derailed from any contextual meaning, at least it will give you some clue about what the author is talking about in general.

#) Ask for explanation. Perhaps you're lucky enough to have a communicating relationship with the author; if not, ask other people. Sometimes a second or third pair of eyes can see what the first might have missed.

It's not hard to avoid this by writing clearly. If it's worth saying, it's worth saying well.

Why Real Life is the Best—Part 2

See yesterday to understand today. Fiction is great, but it isn't the best. Instead, real life. Not because everything that happens is wonderful; it's surely not. Bad things happen all the time, and having an escape is good, as long as it doesn't become an addiction. But sometimes escape and refuge aren't necessary. Real life is the best, because, no matter how far technology goes—no matter how it makes us feel we are experiencing something simulated, no matter how dramatic and drastic our 'fiction' can be—nothing holds a candle to the size of the earth, to the warmth of the sun, to embrace from a friend or the warm release of a real tear slipping down a cheek.

Following that real life is the best, that is why the best fiction is about real life. We want to read things that we can understand, we want to read about people like us, we want to grasp insight from someone we're not prejudiced against or intimidated by so we can actually respect it.

The message is twofold:

#) whatever you write, write real life into it. It has greater allure, wider depth, and deeper purpose.

#) really nothing beats real life; so take time in the rush to stop and appreciate it. It's not hard to do—step outside in any season, and you'll immediately be barraged by whatever reality is happening with the weather; then go from there.

Why Real Life is the Best—Part 1

"And we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain un-alienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." This is a famous excerpt from the Declaration of Independence.  Every human was created equal, and each has the right to life. Life. Not in the pro-life sense but in the 'really truly alive' sense; the feeling of dropping into bed, weary and exhausted, after a hard day of labor. The satisfaction of food in a hungry stomach. The inexplicable beauty of the sunset, the clarity of the air after a rainstorm, the feel of being warm on a cold day, or cool on a hot day. Although global and personal circumstances are different, most people are born fully equipped with senses, which enable them to understand and experience wonderful things.

I am self-proclaimed and unashamedly a writer. It's what I do, it's what I love; I write to show people what they've always thought but never put words to. I write to release, to understand, to process. I write, so that people will read. Reading requires the temporary suspension of reality, as you either involve yourself in the story, or concentrate to understand information.

Every element of story requires this pause; as you watch a movie, or listen to the radio, or read a book, some part of your brain leaves the current reality to invest and engage with the content. Although some may be leery of it, it is wonderful. To wholly partake in the experience is like sweet relief from many pressures. Fiction is freedom, it is insight, it is story, but it is not everything. Even completely simplified, fiction is pulling from something about real life. There is nothing fictional that does not draw some aspect of itself from reality, and use ideas that are present in the real world.

Come back tomorrow to see why it matters.