Posts Tagged ‘white noise’

In my attempts to be sure the meaning of my words are not lost to the reader, my temptation is to add extra words, rather than subtract them. Examples such as: “the toast was burnt black,” “she raised her eyes up to meet his,” and “the forest trees were thick with greenery,” may not necessarily jump out as being problematic sentence structures, but they are riddled with redundancy.

Added words that replicate the meaning of a single word do not make the point clearer or stronger. This kind of redundancy is called Pleonasm, and it weakens the language~ the opposite effect I’m aiming for. The examples above are the kinds of sentences I look for (and often find), when I am revising my work and looking to cut needless words.

The first example, “the toast was burnt black,” is the kind of Pleonasm I most commonly fall victim to. My  story will go on its merry way, burnt black toast and all, till someone with a sharper eye than my own says, “burnt black as opposed to what? Burnt orange?” And only then will I see my own blunder. Sometimes I will argue, “but this toast is really, really burnt! I need people to know how burnt this toast is. It’s imperative to the story! How can I demonstrate the true realism of a Cocker Spaniel dog owner in the old-time Elizabethan era who is an addicted alcoholic with a drinking problem without showing you how black he burns the toast?” (Did you catch all those redundancies?) But most times, I will see the error and agree. Especially when it’s pointed out to me that toasters were unlikely devices in this particular setting. If the toast is burnt, it goes without saying that it is black… or at least close to it.

The second example is even trickier. “She raised her eyes up to meet his,” sounds perfectly fine to me. However, if something is raised, does “up” need to be added? In this sentence, the word “up” becomes nothing more than white noise. After all, you can not really raise your eyes down, now can you? The sentence, “she raised her eyes to meet his,” may not sound significantly more powerful than the former version of itself, but it is, because after an entire novel of small redundancies, the expressiveness of the language tends to get watered down.

The third example is quite a whopper, yet sadly, I have read (and even written) similar sentences. “The forest trees were thick with greenery,” is problematic for several reasons. First, what else is a forest composed of if not trees? Second, the word “forest” implies many trees, which therefore implies the “thick” in this description. Thirdly, and most redundant of all, what color are most forests if not green? And isn’t greenery what one would expect to find in a forest?

There are a million ways in which we commonly weaken the language by being redundant, and it’s certainly not due to lack of options that we do so. With a language that is so flexible, and gives us such infinitely endless ways of returning back to one place and advancing forward to another, the thing to remember is that excessively repetitious reiteration and wordy verbosity is rarely, in my experience, the best path to take.


     Life is incredibly short.  The saddest part about this is that we spend so much of what little time we have wondering how to spend it, and once we do figure out how we want to spend it, we are met with resistance, negativity and that two-letter word we all hate most of all: No. After so much of this, we just want to throw our hands in the air and go back to our places in line, accepting the grind as our lots in life and carrying on, moment to moment, day after day, playing it safe and making sure not to rock the boat of monotony.   This might work for a while, but eventually, those notions of something greater, something more meaningful, will catch up to us, tackle us, and pin us to the ground, demanding we heed our own instincts that we’re capable of more.  When we’ve reach that point in life where we’ve put fear in its place and thickened our skins enough to take the punches, there are a few things we can do to counter-balance the effects of the coming obstacles and impediments in order to keep our spirits and our passions in check.  At the forefront of that list, in my opinion, is to have a support network. 

     Whether you’re a writer, a college graduate, a stay-at-home mom, or a poodle groomer, you don’t have time to divulge in anyone else’s version of reality, unless it supports your own success unequivocally.  The fact is, no one but you knows those core truths about you that, if listened to and acted upon, will carry you to your root allocation in life.  We’ve all been out of our elements.  We’ve all taken jobs that simply paid the bills, we’ve all catered to the fear of failure and we’ve all fallen into the designs of someone else’s masterpiece.  It isn’t a good place to be.  We struggle, we fight, we get by… and we don’t even know what for; and all the while we try to ignore the fact that we simply don’t have time for that; that sadly, life comes… and then it goes.

     I’ve reached a point in my own life where, if someone dared to tell me I couldn’t do a thing, I would smile, nod and walk as far away from them as my feet would take me.  My own mother wouldn’t be afforded the luxury of discouraging me, so one can imagine how I might feel about even the gentlest of promptings from a stranger, a friend of a friend, or a stagnant and embittered second cousin through marriage.  If I let these people affect me, I will be discouraged and impotent,  and, as far as I’m concerned, if I let these people make my decisions, I have no right to occupy my own body. 

     So I surround myself with people who have dreams of their own and who believe in mine.  I don’t view this as a simple choice so much as a strategy move essential for survival.  Whatever paths we choose to execute in life, we will be met with enough interference, restraint and discouragement.  It’s just not lucrative to allow it into your immediate personal space.  Your social life should be reserved for those who foster your goals, stimulate your drive and help cultivate your personal empowerment.  In his book, The Master Key to Riches, Napoleon Hill refers to this as the “Mastermind Alliance.”  While I am not typically a fan of self-help or motivational literature, I think he was definitely on the right track with that one, and I recommend the book to anyone.

     If you’re walking, talking and breathing, you have passion.  Even if you have to look for it a little, it’s there.  And passion without purpose and precision is just white noise.  Part of who and what you surround yourself with is part of that precision, so I’ve come to believe in the value of choosing wisely my immediate environment.  I’m standing in a foreign place in my life right now.  Not just in my writing but in everything else as well.  I am at a precipice, looking over the edge at everything I know, just daring the wind to blow a little and knock me off my feet.  But everything I feared is twice removed.  There are a million reasons I can’t succeed and yet all I can think about is the one reason I can: because I want it that damned bad.  Now, more than ever, I’m glad I have nothing around me except the highest caliber of believers, and I’m grateful that, as depressing as it is, I realize how little time there is.

     There isn’t time to listen to anyone else tell you what you should do.  All you need to know is that fish belong in water, painters belong on canvas and writers belong on paper.  It’s just a matter of finding out who you are… your station in life will follow.  Time is precious.  So, if you’re going to stop and smell the roses, first be sure you’re not standing in someone else’s garden.