Today, I have been going through a manuscript removing the words ‘however’, ‘only’ and ‘just’. As in: however, just concentrating on the small things does not only bring you joy. (That is a terrible example, but my brain is fried from concentration and I can’t construct an orderly sentence.) I’ve also taken out about twenty uses of the word ‘horrid’. For some reason, I seem very fond of that word. I have replaced it with beastly and ghastly and awful and desperate and foul and detestable and heinous and hideous. My thesaurus is so tired that it is considering taking up mountain climbing, as this would be less exhausting.
Why does it matter that sometimes I just use the word just? This is a world of smallness where smallness needs a new definition.
It matters. Too much repetition, too many redundant words, too many qualifications, and the brilliant subliminal mind of the Dear Reader starts to lift its head like a questing vole. The reader gives the writer trust; if you abuse that gift, it will be lost. If the sentences are not clean, the reader begins to get a falling sense of disappointment, even if she does not quite know why. It’s so subtle that it is almost visceral.
Also, the rhythm of the sentence may be lost, that alluring syncopated beat which makes prose dance off the page. I listen to sentences like I listen to music. A syllable too many, and I sadly put my tap shoes away.
I write here in first draft. I give it a quick look to make sure there is nothing too awful and send it out into the world on a wing and prayer. I have faith that people who read blogs know they are of a different order than books. Books must be polished like gleaming gems. They are precious, and require precision and care. They demand the jeweller’s loupe.
In the real world, the sun shone on the field and I walked down this morning to find two enchanting and unexpected visitors. The red mare has a new friend who lives in the next valley along. The new friend is eleven years old, and it turns out that what she most loves to do is ride a thoroughbred. (She has very good taste.) So we brushed off the mud and saddled up and the happy pair went out into the meadows and woods and hills. The mother and I walked ahead, talking about all our favourite people and how remarkable they are. ‘She has a core of steel,’ we said of one person, ‘and she is so kind at the same time. Everything about her is kindness. It’s an unbeatable combination.’ This kind of conversation, I suddenly realised, is my favourite. I enjoy it even more than trying to unravel the mysteries of Donald Trump’s strange psyche or how the electoral college really works.
Each time I looked back, there would be the beaming face of the young rider and the sweet white blaze of the red mare. She had her neck stretched out and her head low and she was wandering along like a Quarter Horse. ‘There,’ I would say. ‘You two are a partnership now.’
When we finished, the young friend ran about collecting conkers. ‘This is a really outstanding conker tree,’ she said, with her flashing smile. I thought how glorious the days were when happiness depended on finding the good conkers.
‘Can we come back tomorrow?’ they said.
I felt my heart lift. ‘Come back every day,’ I said.