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Efficiency and Extravagance

In recent writing eras, in the Western world at least, we saw a move toward minimalism and realism, such as the realistic and naturalistic writers of late 19th century and early 20th century America. Naturalism is considered the writing of “grim realism” in which the author is an observer of their characters (Kennedy and Gioia 122). This time period was marked by the globalization of literature thanks to ever-growing and ever-quickening forms of transportation and communication (Puchner, et al 625). Writing about the entire world and writing about the real world was now a fascinating and feasible endeavor for writers to share. Whereas the Romantic period was a turn away from the characteristics of Neoclassicism (“Romanticism”), these movements were direct responses to the whimsical, extravagant, emotional writing of the Romantic period.

What I wonder is, how can we as writers in the post-modern era balance the two? Our writing doesn’t have to be a dichotomy of drab versus fun, stoic versus emotional, or long-winded versus scant. However, it is still important to make sure that we don’t waste words. What we write should always have a purpose. So how do we argue that any flowery language is purposeful and effective in our writing?

For every writer, language choice (also called diction) is going to be a very personal. We are all inspired by so many varying sources, come from many different language backgrounds, and will also adapt our diction depending on our audience. Nonetheless, there are ways in which we can think of diction in more objective terms. This should help us pursue a balance between efficiency and extravagance, because those are aspects of diction.

With diction in mind, we might consider extravagance an aspect of abstract writing and efficiency an aspect of concrete writing. The rule of thumb to follow is this: always come back to the concrete. I believe we can argue for taking our readers as high into the clouds as we would like, as long as we always touch back down to solid ground.

Although Erza Pound famously warned writers to “Go in fear of abstractions” (Kennedy and Gioia 718), I think it is safe to say that abstractions are fair game.

Sometimes I lean more toward minimalism. Sometimes I lean toward Romanticism. Sometimes I bounce between several styles within one piece of writing. Oftentimes, though, if I’m not happy with the diction, I don’t know how to go about revisions. Here is what I am trying: with my overall message in mind, I will go line by line. If I’m writing more extravagantly, I challenge myself to pare my thoughts down to the bare minimum. If I am writing more minimalistically, I challenge myself to expand my thoughts as far as I can. I might also try to write the line in a new way, imagining that the reader is not a native speaker of English. These tests don’t always lead me to a solution, but usually I can come to a solution once I’ve received feedback on the writing.

How do you view efficiency and extravagance? How do you balance the two, if at all?



writing comes with mood...
i may wake grim and in character
but if the day is romantic by evening
its a different verse
then wake romantic
and on the walk to work see that
the mood of bus passengers and
shopkeeps and drivers are tense
and jittery...

weather...socio economic
nuance factors i dont know anything
of other then an abstraction
and lastly..

people out tell me when im too

i agree that your writing tries on all
the different aspects and i like that

i cant wake and pull up a style
and keep it by nightfall or mid day
some can...not me
im affected or effect by pretty
much everything

thank you

Thanks for posting this Blog with some stimulating thoughts on various aspects of writing, diction and making a willful attempt to find a golden mean between abstract and concrete. I would try to keep these objectives in mind in my attempt to express through the medium of poetry.


raj (sublime_ocean)

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