Creative Writing 101: What You Leave Out is More Important Than What You Put In

All art, no matter how large or small, has a similar goal: To eliminate waste and be as concise as possible. For example, da Vinci knew what to leave out of a painting. Surgeons go directly to the root of the problem and using a scalpel cut it out, without undue delay and complications. Marathon runners learn how to run a “smart race” by conserving energy and waiting until they see the finish line before putting on a burst of speed and breaking out into a full sprint. Writers are no different.

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A writer’s greatest art is often what he has left unsaid, what he leaves out; his ability to state simply and clearly the direction he wants to go. The writer must be so committed and dedicated to his craft that a second brain develops and lives in his fingers. The same is true about the surgeon whose hand, like the hand of Michelangelo, must sketch life-saving designs on the flesh of man. The same is true with the marathon runner whose body is so in tune with the rhythm and cadence of forward movement that it becomes, itself, a mind.

Work, or quantitative experience, is a beautiful thing. It relieves a person from outside distractions and focuses them on the task at hand. The artist must not think of the fame or fortune that he will get for painting pictures. Instead, he must think of the beauty that he is earnestly waiting to release on a blank canvass through his brush. The surgeon must not think of his fee, but of the life he is trying to save. The runner must ignore the cheers of the crowd and let his body run the race for him. The writer must let his fingers play out the story of his characters.

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