I taught my son to write. And it wasn’t fun. Late on the night before a paper was due in world history, for example, he’d still be struggling with topic focus and long, gangly sentences and redundancy.
It wasn’t that he didn’t care about writing. It was more that he was trying to sound intelligent, that he wanted to be taken seriously. And long, multi-clause sentences with pretentious phrasing seemed the way to do it. Keep it simple, I’d tell him.
But how the tables have turned!
When I retired from teaching, I wanted to write. And David, who had since gone on to write books and publish articles in academic journals, became my coach. His critiques of my writing have become one of my biggest gifts.
Recently, he wrote an article that was published on the Anxious Bench blog and in his local newspaper. You can read David’s call for civility in a contentious time.
But for a taste, here are the opening paragraphs:
Some weeks before the 1888 election, 15 politicians from Nicholasville made a friendly wager. If Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate for president, won, the Republicans would foot the bill for a banquet of reconciliation. If Benjamin Harrison, the Republican candidate, won, the Democrats would pay.
On the Saturday evening after a very tense political contest, they all converged on Hotel Nicholas. As promised, the losing Democrats served up “everything good that you could think of.” The sumptuous feast included venison, grouse, quail, oysters, celery, ice creams, confections, and cakes. The Jessamine Journal reported that the champagne, enjoyed over toasts and fine conversation, was “somewhat exhilarating.” It was early Sunday morning by the time the dining room was empty.
Just the other day, David and I were discussing a section in a chapter I had written.
“You’re trying too hard here,” he said. “Keep it simple.”
And that sentence took me way back.