For reasons that I don’t understand, I write best when I write short things.
It’s not just the essays themselves. With me, it just seems to work best when everything—the paragraphs, the sentences, even the words—are short and simple.
I don’t like my paragraphs to run more than three sentences. When I see a four sentence paragraph, I need to split it up. Sometimes this means that I create a one sentence paragraph, which most writing teachers discourage.
I like one sentence paragraphs.
Virtually all of the vocabulary I use in my writing is of a third grade level. There are certain words—paragraph, essays, virtually—that are probably a bit high, but other than that, most everything I write is one or two syllables, except for words such as “everything.”
Once I get to five hundred words or so, it just feels as if it’s time to stop. I have this mental wall that makes 1,000 words seem excessive, so I rarely, if ever, write something that’s longer than that. Most of the time, the average is 600 to 700 words.
I keep thinking about writing a book with somewhere between 50 and 100 chapters. Each chapter would be somewhere between 500 and 1000 words. If I kept to my average of 600 to 700 words, this would mean that a novel sized work—National Novel Writing Month says a novel is 50,000 words—would have something in the neighborhood of 70 to 80 chapters.
I think I do this because I had trouble reading anything complex when I was young. My mind was, and continues to be, something that races.
It is difficult to read something complex when the mind races. Processing advanced words and long sentences requires sitting still and slowing down.
This is not an easy thing to do. Nathaniel Hawthorne said “easy reading is damn hard writing.” He is right about this.
Writing simple things means spending a lot of time with fingers poised over the keyboard, thinking about what to write next. It involves questioning whether even a word such as “poised” is too complicated. Maybe “frozen over the keyboard” is a better choice, even if “frozen” has more syllables.
There’s a lot that I can’t do when I use simple words, and short sentences. I can’t write a long, detailed descriptions of a person or a place. Instead, I need to write things such as:
“When Paul Ryan was in third grade, he enjoyed telling the teacher that they had forgotten to give out homework just before the end of school on Friday afternoon. He liked the way the teacher praised him for this.”
Though it’s hard work, there is something relaxing about trying to write short things with simple words. It takes me back, in my mind, to a simple time, when I would go to the candy store after school and buy conversation hearts candy, which was the cheapest thing among the loose candy items. It cost $2.80 a pound back then, and I would get an eighth of a pound for 35 cents.
What I liked about conversation hearts candy was that it was easy to share it with my friends. I liked sharing things. It also was fun to comment on the words printed on each of the hearts.
I would go home, have a snack, and watch after school television. This makes me want to look at an old newspaper and check the TV listings so that I can remember the order of the shows I watched. Friday afternoons in May and June were best, because school was over for the week, and the days were long, which meant that I could watch afternoon television and then go out and play.
I didn’t have anyone in my class who reminded the teacher that she had forgotten to give out homework.
Anyway, I’m getting close to 700 words here, so I’m going to stop. I will write something else that is simple, and I hope that you will read it and enjoy it. That would make me happy.