Economy and Restraint

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When I first started blogging, I was concerned I would have nothing much to write about, and that my posts would be too short.  Ha ha!  Little did I know that I’d have the opposite problem.  It turns out with every post I want to go on and on.

I usually write over 1000 words a post, which seems more like writing an essay rather than a blog post.  A quick Internet search of “ideal blog post length” yields a website suggesting 500 words.  Another website claims that it doesn’t matter how long your blog post is as long as it’s well written.  Go figure!

I’ve been having a field day following blogs on WordPress.  There’s a multitude of talented writers out there, and I keep following more blogs.  According to About.com “Most people who read blogs don’t have a lot of time or patience to read thousands of words of content.  They’re looking for quick access to information or entertainment.”  I must confess that lately I’ve found it easier to concentrate on shorter blog post lengths rather than longer ones, and that makes me feel like a hypocrite.  So I’m going to try to shoot for writing more concise pieces, although it will be a challenge…

We are all writers in this blogosphere, and we can certainly learn from bestselling authors – especially those whose works have been bestsellers spanning across many decades.  The writer I have in mind is one of my favorites: L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables and many other books as well.  Montgomery created an internationally known protagonist in Anne Shirley.  However, I find Montgomery’s lesser known character Emily Byrd Starr more intriguing to me than the lovable Anne because I share more in common with her.

Emily is depicted as a passionate writer from a very early age in Emily of New Moon.   Emily’s writing mentor is her school teacher Mr. Carpenter.  Mr. Carpenter is a gruff, charismatic man who “could have been a contender” in any profession he chose, yet his alcoholism played a key part in his being an unfulfilled, frustrated country schoolteacher.  Mr. Carpenter bonds with the sensitive Emily and is ruthless in his criticism of her writing assignments.  Emily has nothing but respect for Mr. Carpenter’s opinions of her work, and she aims to earn his praise because she knows, in her rather otherworldly way, that he will tell her the truth.

I’ve read Emily of New Moon and the other two Emily books: Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest numerous times. Emily of New Moon is one of my most beloved books and it’s particularly meaningful to me since, like Emily, I see myself as a writer to the core.  I never had my own “Mr. Carpenter” to motivate and challenge me to write better, and I wish I did.  Carpenter’s colorful turns of phrase regarding Emily’s writing never fail to entertain me, and I’ve recognized a profound truth to all of his remarks.

Mr. Carpenter nicknames Emily “Jade” and he tells her,

“You waste words, Jade–you spill them about too lavishly.  Economy and restraint–that’s what you need.”  

I need economy and restraint in my writing as well.  Many bloggers do.  When I write a post and wait a day to proofread and edit it, I find so many things that I need to correct or delete.  I can’t believe I didn’t figure out my mistakes after immediately re-reading my first draft, but that’s the nature of writing for many authors.

We learn of Emily’s authentic devotion to writing when Mr. Carpenter asks her,

“Tell me this–if you knew you would be poor as a church mouse all your life–if you knew you’d never have a line published–would you still go on writing–would you?’

‘Of course I would,’ said Emily disdainfully. ‘Why, I have to write–I can’t help it at times–I’ve just got to.” 

(I love that exchange.)

The piece de resistance of Mr. Carpenter’s advice that takes place when Emily is only thirteen years old.  She has given him some of her writing to see if he thinks she has a future as a writer.  Emily awaits his decision with bated breath.  He tells her,

“Ten good lines out of four hundred, Emily—comparatively good, that is—and all the rest balderdash—balderdash, Emily.”
“I—suppose so,” said Emily faintly.
Her eyes brimmed with tears—her lips quivered. She could not help it. Pride was hopelessly submerged in the bitterness of her disappointment. She felt exactly like a candle that somebody had blown out.
“What are you crying for? demanded Mr. Carpenter.
Emily blinked away tears and tried to laugh.
“I—I’m sorry—you think it’s no good—” she said.
Mr. Carpenter gave the desk a mighty thump.
“No good!  Didn’t I tell you there were ten good lines? Jade, for ten righteous men Sodom had been spared.”
“Do you mean—that—after all—”  The candle was being relighted again.
“Of course, I mean.  If at thirteen you can write ten good lines, at twenty you’ll write ten times ten—if the gods are kind…and don’t imagine you’re a genius, either, if you have written ten decent lines.  I think there’s something trying to speak through you—but you’ll have to make yourself a fit instrument for it.  You’ve got to work hard and sacrifice—by gad, girl, you’ve chosen a jealous goddess.  And she never lets her votaries go—not even when she shuts her ears forever to their plea.”

After experiencing tragedy and heartbreak, Emily stops writing after falling into a deep depression.  (Boy, I can relate to that!)  However, Emily ultimately accomplishes her dream of writing her book.  It is published and achieves a modest success.  She also marries Teddy Kent, the love of her life.  While I’ve found my partner, and I’ve endured deep depression, the book I wish to have published is not yet complete.  I won’t give up, though.  Even if I knew my book would never be published, I would still keep writing it for my own sake.  Like Emily, I have to write.  I know that all of you bloggers feel the same way as Emily and I do.  I think that writing affects a certain part of our brains in a unique way, and it’s healthy for us to keep at it.

I wish you many productive and fulfilling hours of writing and I look forward to reading your blogs – as long as your posts aren’t as long as The Illiad!

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