Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Aphorisms (Part 8 of 10)

Think of the times you’ve read an article or a book and afterward thought, Yes, it was all right. Nothing special. Or you might think, It reinforced what I believed, but didn’t shed light or give me a deeper understanding.

Or I can look at this from the position of a public speaker. At a writers conference years ago, each speaker was told to introduce their classes in one minute. Three of them gave almost their entire message—in at least five minutes. As I listened to the third one drone on, here’s an aphorism that popped into my head:
Those who have the least to say
take the longest to say it.
In another conference, as a joke as much as anything else, I defined two types of bad writers:
Fat writers like and enjoy writing lengthy sentences, with parenthetical phrases, set off by commas, (or sometimes in parenthesis), and occasionally inserting the em dash—an attention getter—and always writing many words that go on endlessly and redundantly.

Skinny: Writes nouns, verbs, one adjective.
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I decided to write about aphorisms on this blog because they do one special thing for me: they force me to think clearly and to make sentences meaningful. They remind me of a dictum from a long-time pastor who offered me advice on how to be effective: “Stand up, speak up, shut up.”

I grapple with words, constantly trying to say them better. I’ve sometimes said to beginning writers, “I enjoy rewriting more than I do the writing.”

My first draft flows out of passion, believing I have something to justify killing another tree. I toil over the second draft to refine my thinking. If I expend high-level energy in my writing, readers will find it easy to stay with me.

I labor with my prose 
so readers won’t have to.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Aphorisms (Part 7 of 10)

Memorable sayings need to have a twist—a surprise. Knowing or informing doesn’t grab us because we read nothing unexpected—that is, it holds no surprise. A good aphorism moves in one direction and abruptly challenges the first statement.

These sayings often contain a smidgen of humor.

Here’s an example I wrote recently:
I refuse to judge other Christians—
even when I see them doing something wrong.
How does this one by Ashleigh Brilliant grab you? “I wish somebody would expose me for what I really am, so that I would know.”

One of my all-time favorites comes from the witty Oscar Wilde, who said, “I can resist anything, except temptation.”

Here’s another of mine, borne out of my own experience:
God, today help me to be kind and compassionate to everyone—
especially to myself.
Maxims charm us;
they also surprise us.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Aphorisms (Part 6 of 10)

I once read that the adages we quote lead us one of two ways. The first is directive. That is, they subtly nudge us to change our behavior by pointing out a better way to live.

Those dictums come as reflections on our own issues and struggles—as they did with me. I wrote this one after being ashamed and immobilized by something I had done long ago. Here’s the result:
Nothing I can do alters the past;
everything I do reshapes the future.
The second way aphorisms lead is by challenging our thinking. Aphorisms are outlaws—they don’t tell us what to do, but by focusing on life as it is, they take us to a deeper level.

Here are two of mine:
God heals the sins of our past, but the scars remain.
If I say, "You made me angry,"
I'm holding onto my expectations of your behavior.
These are the kind that, once we read them, we say, “Yes, I hadn’t thought of that way.”

Why not write your own?

I share my experiences in pithy statements
to nudge and encourage others.