Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Writer’s Exploration: Wordiness and the Lack of Self

Wordiness is ubiquitous. It appears in emails, Facebook status updates, blogs, memos, newsletters, bulletins, tabloids, signage, packaging … I am sure you get the picture. It is often a result of not mastering the language, not taking the time or knowing how to wordsmith, not knowing the true definitions of words. It comes from our K-12 education in which our English teachers encouraged us to dress up our otherwise simplified and direct prose with flowery language and ornamentation. Make it colorful. Make it dramatic. Make it superficial!

I don’t blame the perpetuators of wordiness for their origins, but I do wonder if they ever consider how it reflects on their being. I’m not exactly going existential here, though a parallel could be drawn by anyone insisting on that level of depth. Your self, my self, the collective self of the population at large, is reflected in everything we do and say, essential to our personalities and the personae we are perceived by.

The careless overuse of words, particularly descriptive and melodramatic language, creates a persona comprising a lack of concision, blurred clarity, a deficit of directness, and unnecessary complexity. I am intentionally going way over the top with wordiness as I espouse this idealized concept I just created on the fly earlier this morning. Or, simply put, I was intentionally wordy in my adoption of this new concept to illustrate the point. One’s true character is mired by these complexities much like viewing their aura through a kaleidoscope and not the naked third eye. Exhausted yet?

An exercise in extreme anti-wordiness

I recently wrote a short story using no descriptive language – no adjectives, no adverbs, no dialogue, though a rare exception was permitted for describing time transitions – as an exercise for my MFA writing workshop. It forced me to consider how I would convey mood, environment, and appearance through carefully selected nouns and verbs. Each meticulously selected word took on a new power and stronger meaning. After I shared it with my workshop group, I learned from their feedback that I had crafted an effective suspenseful and vivid story with zero descriptions. It was a worthwhile challenge that I will employ regularly moving forward.

I urge anyone battling their wordiness demons to try this exercise too. You will find your true self in the process.

Please share your thoughts on this below. I am always interested in what others think.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Book Review: Propaganda by Edward Bernays

In my continuing fascination on the subject, I recently read the 1928 book Propaganda by the father of PR, Edward Bernays. What I found most surprising was that not much has changed in American business or politics since the original publication of this book. Please check out the review over on the Anne W. Associates blog and feel free to share your thoughts:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

John Palisano's debut novel Nerves is coming

The debut novel Nerves from my very good friend John Palisano is coming out on February 26, 2012. Watch the teaser below and place an order. Support a talented up-and-comer!

Also, check out this artist's profile piece on John:

Book orders:

John's site:

A Writer’s Exploration: Finding My Nonfiction Voice

I tried something new recently. It was risky – well, not really risky, let’s say daring – I applied my fiction voice to my nonfiction work.

Over the years, as I have developed my business writing prowess, I always felt there were certain molds I needed to fit in to and expectations to meet. Often times I found myself writing in a stilted, unnatural voice, like I was listening to myself on the other side of a two-story brick and mortar wall. It never sat right with me. It felt like a chore. I would spend countless collective hours revising and refining, restructuring and reworking – as I am sure any writer has had the good fortune of dealing with – to sound reasonably good. And the good was good, sometimes a little better than good, sometimes it was dry, business-like, professional, regimented, bland and craving a makeover of charisma and soul. Sometimes I hated the venomous amorphous beast that slowly gnawed at my psyche little bits at a time. It made me crazy; my mental wellness was not quite at stake, but crazy nonetheless. But I did what needed to be done, I stuck to my due diligence.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wrote well, when I was into it. And if not well, well enough for the sake of well enough. I wrote news articles and business information for the corporate intranet, website content, ad copy, various employee communications, a few press releases, a speech or two … whatever a Corporate Communicator would write on a regular basis. It did the job, it communicated clearly and efficiently, and I fulfilled my obligation. Nevertheless, it felt distant to me – like another shallow faceless automaton wrote it. I was starved to fight my way out of this monotony.

Since last August, I have been writing a short fiction piece for my MFA writing workshop course. You could say it is a psychological thriller among other things. During the process, I found myself seeing the story and interpreting it into the written language in a novel way. My writing voice, to my surprise, had evolved to a new level. Though it is hard to pinpoint the catalyst, I fell in love with the writing process all over again (I had to throw in one more cliché, really).

Then it hit me in a subconscious sense – because I did not actually speak or think these words – why not use this evolving fiction style, this new voice, in my nonfiction? I tried it out on a few small pieces. I found myself perceiving what I was writing in a new light with a different thought process. I introduced elements of this evolving voice to a recent book review … and it blew my mind. Reading the work back to myself aloud, I could not believe the barrier I had leapt over. The style was so fluid, so easy to follow, so full of humanity and personality. It was, and still is, an incredible feeling. My true nonfiction voice has emerged from the dark depths of white offices with beige carpets!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Writer's Exploration: No Longer Just the Student

In my educational quest to improve my knowledge of Public Relations and Corporate Communication, I have found myself inadvertently applying this new acquirement to my conversations and online commentary. Suddenly, I am no longer the student. It’s not that I was nascent at the start, I have worked in this field for a long time in varying capacities and media (mostly of the visual kind).

My current studies are spent reading a plethora of history and craft books on the PR/Corp Comm disciplines, which has given me the ability to link together my scattered and isolated thoughts amidst my misfiring synapses in a holistic manner. No longer am I seeing a challenge from one point of view, it’s all about the bigger picture and approaching this PR/Corp Comm subject it with ease.

This brings me to my writing. After all, this is an exploration on writing, my journey, my … whatever. Where does it fit in? It’s all about communicating well, so writing well is key, obviously. Without a doubt, other key factors are important – speaking well, articulating thoughts and ideas well, knowing how to use the technology to distribute the communications well, and knowing how to read the audience. But at the root of it all is knowing how to tell a convincing story and educate others in the process. Writing effectively is a culmination of those requirements; using language in the right way for the right cause means the difference between success and failure in this business. A typographic mistake or misused word can lead to grave losses of clients or income.

To conclude, as I have yet to make a real earth-shattering point, communicate clearly and with vigor; be the most effective storyteller possible using the shortest amount of words and time. Write the words with love or whatever emotion is best suited for the situation. Just don’t write words for the sake of writing words like I find myself doing with this sentence to over-exemplify this point and beat it into the ground.

The adventure in writing continues soon, with more substance and less abuse of a blog post. And more intent too!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book review: On Writing Well

My recent review of William Zinnser's On Writing Well appears on the Anne W Associates blog. I enjoyed this book immensely; it has opened up a new perspective in how I approach writing.

Check it out!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Writer's Exploration: On Persuasion

This is the first of a new series of blog posts on my exploration and contemplation of the craft of writing. My focus is generally on the business side, though my short fiction self will undoubtedly make its presence known. Please excuse the bland title, I wanted to avoid clichés and lameness, so naturally, my mind has gone blank. So be it. 

So, I just finished reading the book Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda by Noam Chomsky, a book on the use of propaganda as a device to lead a nation into war, and it got me thinking about the topic of persuasion. Persuasion is a necessary requirement of the PR/Corporate Communication field I work in, and a challenging topic at that.

It brings up a question of ethics and morals I am sure many have heard countless times about PR thanks to the bad rep of propaganda – lying. I don’t like to lie about anything, I pride myself in being honest (blatantly honest) – to the point that I sometimes need to shut my mouth. Until now, I never studied this subject in school; rather, I obsessively learn from reading and watching the news and following current events. I have become a pro at spotting the liars on the pundit shows, not only those who avoid answering the question so they aren’t technically lying. It amazes me – why is honesty in the political world so rare?

The key to strong Corporate Communication writing, among simplicity, clarity, and conciseness, is the ability to win over the audience. Winning does not imply that the writer should fabricate information, or manipulate its meaning, though I have learned from past experience some people will try it. I find in my work that honesty and enthusiasm are successful, as well as humor when it applies, writing in my own voice, and avoiding jargon and other elitist mannerisms. If I begin to write in business speak I might as well fire myself.

I am about to read Propaganda by Edward Bernays, the father of PR and the propaganda machine. This topic is fascinating; I see it touching on the 2012 presidential campaign among many other recent and current events. I will revisit propaganda in the coming weeks on this blog as my exploration continues.