"Expressiveness is the goal. Expression is what we use to get there." --Arthur Plotnik
From Goodreads: "Whether the subject is love, mortality, or anything in between,putting your thoughts into words that demand attention isn't as easy as pouring water into a pitcher. That's where this book comes in. Written with humor and wit, it offers many engaging examples of adventuresome language that not only get you noticed, but also communicate a wide range of feelings, thoughts, meanings, and experiences vividly and forcefully."
So far I've only progressed through the first five chapters but already I'm hooked. A sample:
"Anyone who has seen Pygmalion or My Fair Lady knows how quickly expressiveness can flower when love and a wager come into play: On a bet, Professor Henry Higgins tutors a Cockney loudmouth named Eliza Doolittle in Snob Speech 101, and Eliza achieves enough courtly elegance to pass muster at a ball. If we ask no more than that of expressiveness, then the Higgins Method will suffice.
"Of course we do ask more, if we hope to engage distracted listeners and readers. And while small steps toward expressiveness yield quick rewards, the quick fix for mush-mouthed language doesn't exist...Instead the fix involves a number of long-term commitments worth keeping in mind:
Read--Listen--Savor--Keep a Journal.
"These are the acts to which expressive people must commit themselves. And if the word commit smacks of twelve-step recovery, think of these acts as acquired habits of highly expressive people."
Ah, long-term commitments. But with an eye toward more vivid, meaningful expressiveness? Worth it. And although the past week was a busy one over this way, I happily discovered upon reflection that I had been able to continue fostering some of these habits. A short synopsis:
1. Read. Books I enjoyed included Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (great reading for those interested in all things Civil War), A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (how did I miss this gem when Burnett's The Secret Garden is such a favorite classic on my shelf?! Sweet and endearing, a must-read), and the first few chapters of Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts (which is proving to be a beautiful read).
2. Listen. Quite a few opportunities to "listen" presented themselves, including a college reunion around a chilly night's campfire (had a great time, Paula!), an Amish auction benefiting a county home, and a bit of time spent in a Greyhound bus station.
3. Savor. I love how Plotnik describes this: "When a delicious piece of expression comes their way, whether by written or spoken word, expressive people do not simply wolf it down. They chew on it to savor its essence, and thus make it theirs."
An example from my readings this week worthy of savoring includes this: "The English language has a million words, but only one for the two kinds of forgiveness. This is a major failure. The two kinds may be similar at the molecular level but they are far removed in magnitude. Like a candle flame and a volcano, an April shower and a hurricane, a soft tremor beneath your feet and the great San Francisco earthquake..." (Thomas Lake, 'The Boy They Couldn't Kill,' Sports Illustrated, Sept. 17, 2012.) Lake's story, which I recommend reading if you get the chance, is a powerful story of a horrendous tragedy, a grandmother's love, courage and determination--and forgiveness--and speaks for itself. But at the same time the writing is amazing, too.
4. Keep a Journal. I journaled about some of the events of the week. I wrote haiku. I made notes of phrases that struck me, bits of conversation that intrigued me, stories that others related. If we writers accomplish only one thing each day, it would be to journal our thoughts, impressions, and ideas--and with that foster the writing habit and keep the writing wheels oiled.
It turns out that a busy week yielded up valuable writing material--simply because of a commitment to think as a writer as I went. Thank you, Mr. Plotnik.
And that's only part of the book's premise. "Read, listen, savor, keep a journal--these are ongoing habits of expressive people," Mr. Plotnik writes. "The next five apply during acts of expression."
Oooh, there's so much more ahead in this book. I'll keep on reading, digesting, and (hopefully) applying. How about you? What writing book has impacted your writing, writing habits, expression and expressiveness? Are you able to read, listen, savor and journal consistently most of the time, or not?