Recently, one of my articles – Letters from an Anti-Stoic1 – received mixed, although well-deserved, reviews. Stating that the usage of rhetoric, archaic language was taken too far may be an understatement. As the sweat, writing weirdly makes me perspire a lot, wiped off into the grungy, white towel, even I felt a hint of dramatized style. Nonetheless, a certain voice in my head wanted the reactions – more aptly the criticisms. The persistent cry for suffering, ironically, may never shut down
However, that got me thinking – what exactly makes an essay good, and even exceptional? The strategy that caused the previous predicament was radical experimentation. Taking articles to a specific predetermined stylistic choice, archaic rhetoric in this case, to the extreme. Few unwavering details have come to surface, flickering throughout my head, demanding further exploration.
To say what has already been said, radiates a certain sense of lifelessness. Mechanical robots, carefully programmed to perfectly emulate Girardian Memesis2, rather unexciting isn’t it? Clearly, complete novelty and creativity remains rare. Amongst the vast, extensive sea of writings, sparks of originality remain invisible even in the deepest, darkest ends. Even good writers aren’t creative most of the time, perhaps exceptional ones are.
Partial novelty has been a writing necessity for me, at least the pursuit of it. If there is nothing novel to write, study until novelty approaches you. Empty the barrels of ideas, until learning becomes unavoidable. Thus the cycle repeats itself.
It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.Friedrich Nietzsche
Brevity, the accomplice of good writing, seducing us with not extravaganza rather elegant simplicity. Not to be confused with literal simplicity – the “If you can’t explain to a five-year-old3 reeks of absurdity. Increasing complexity requires unheard terminology, especially in technical subjects. All the more reason why there is no evidence that Einstein said it. The fact that simplicity is more or less the usage of common vocabulary doesn’t help either. Complex, more accurately uncommon, vocabulary seems obligatory – especially in arousing certain emotions (more on that later).
Trends of prolonged essays, aided by superfluous explanation, diluted to the point where even a fifth grader has harder English homework, linger amidst. Oftentimes cleverly disguised, like wolves in sheep’s clothing. Almost every non-fiction books, at least popular ones, have a clear pattern. Every chapter starts with a relevant quote, moves on to a relatable anecdote, either from the Author himself or some respectable figure, and illustrates the point. Ideas that could be brief, get treated with such drawn-out procedures. To be clear, the usage of the anecdote inherently may not be unappealing. However, the dreary, repetitive format has an almost repelling effect on further reading. Remember, Redundancy is the enemy.
Of all that is written, I love only what a person hath written with his blood. Write with blood, and thou wilt find that blood is spirit.Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Here it is. The element that has influenced my questionable stylistic decision before – stimulation. Any piece of writing revolves around certain ideas comparatively shorter than its length. Everything else constitutes tools for expressing the former as best as possible. To what quality does the “best” owe its excellence? Well, it depends. However, the common trait, among the great works, is stimulus.
The voyage continues, momentum kept alive – the perfect combination of fast breaks and strolls. Direction stays clear, the destination blurred. Each step through that train of thoughts, accompanied by little shivers of anticipation, all for the hope of the one true end. At last one arrives. Perhaps the feeling of exhilaration, followed by maniacal laughter past midnight, of one that has just understood the truth, justified the search after all.
Aah. The scapegoat of stimulation. One who takes the hit, perhaps almost sick of covering for her friend. Clarity often gets mistaken for simplicity, of the literal sense. Articles composed of brief, straightforward sentences (ironically not small in their entirety) represent the superlative image. To be lucid with the journey, not the outcome. One must strive for that.
Picture an essay to be a journey. One that aims not only to show the Holy Grail, rather take the reader along with it. Equipping them with just enough tools to make it optimally difficult6, offering space for them to decipher the problem at hand. Emerging not only with knowledge of the outcome, more importantly stronger tools to handle problems of similar, and different, kinds.
Ergo ends my rant.
- Letters from an anti-stoic. Niranjan Krishna. (2023, February 20). Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://niranjankrishna.in/2023/02/20/letters-from-an-anti-stoic/
- Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, February 7). Mimetic theory. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimetic_theory
- “If you can’t explain it to a five-year-old, then you don’t understand it yourself”, accredited to many famous scientists most commonly Albert Einstein
- Levitt, S. D., Dubner, S. J., & Muchnik, A. (2014). Freakonomics. Denoël.
- Nietzsche, F. W. (1974). The Gay Science: With a prelude in rhymes and an appendix of songs. Random House..
- Similar to the flow state