Let Go of The Brilliant Phrase

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Ever had that experience of the perfect phrase coming to you out of the blue when you’re doing something unrelated? I’ve often had writing ideas come to me when I’m running, which research shows is not an unusual connection. Those phrases that arrive are a gift, yet I’ve also learned that sometimes they need to be left behind.

For those of us so in love with writing that the right phrase makes us giddy (word nerds unite!), it can be difficult to let it go. Sometimes that’s what you have to do, though. The phrase may be just the beginning.

It’s the perfect phrase because it strikes you, inspires you to move forward with the work of writing. But it may not end up being the perfect phrase for the final piece. For those of us who work with words, it can be tempting to fall in love with a phrase and work a piece around it even if it doesn’t fit.

Look at the writing  on screen; print it and look at it on paper. How do the paragraphs carry weight? Are they balanced? Do they carry intention through the work? Are there words that stand out awkwardly? They do that sometimes.

Have someone else look at your work, read it with sharp eyes and sharper pencil to cut what doesn’t work. A trusted editor is invaluable. If you’re in a small workplace where you’re the only communications voice, let a piece sit before you edit. Make time to get that beautiful phrase out of your mind and be prepared to make every word prove its worth.

It may feel brutal to leave your words behind, but it’s necessary. There will be others.


Image: Looking closely at a recent book love, We are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler.

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