5 Ways I’ve Used Minimalism to Improve my Writing

Instagram screenshot

My Instagram posts

Instagram: Poetry Unfiltered

Every Saturday and Sunday, I publish a “Post-It-sized” poem on Instagram. I used to feel that I had to make each poem “pop” with the use of filters until I realized that such was unnecessary. I could feel the seconds being wasted, trying to come up with just the right filter, so I started screenshotting my poem with my phone via Google Docs and publishing it as is with the hashtag #nofilter. I realized there is a certain beauty in stark white and bold black. Coming up with appropriate hashtags take enough of my time.

Images are (Almost) Everything

Because I blog a minimum of twice weekly, it helps to recycle images, especially with my recurring features: Micropoetry Mondays and Fiction Fridays. For Monday, if my theme is “The Lighter Side” or “Opposites,” I use the same graphic; eventually, I will design my own logo for Micropoetry Monday, so I can ditch the stock photography all together (I’ve already scrubbed my blog of most of it). Because Fiction Fridays are all excerpts from my book or poetry based on it, I use the same graphic. Even when it comes to LinkedIn, rather than using a stock photo, I use my business card in basic black and plain white (without my personal address or telephone number) and an eye-grabbing headline. However, since I’ve discovered the Medium Daily Digest’s publishing platform (https://medium.com/), which is lot more attractive than LinkedIn’s (and not about boring corporate culture), I use an abstract photo—usually a close-up of something loosely related to the quotation I paste over it.  (And my quotes are always original.  There is enough recycled content out there.)

Strunk and White + Stephen King = Needful words

Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is one grammar book that changed my writing (and maybe my life). It is what I call a hornbook for all writers. I applied its principles to my writing when I worked for my community college newspaper for several semesters, which helped me with conciseness (though I would still try to sneak in the Oxford comma). In On Writing by Stephen King, King says to “Kill your darlings”; I say you have to kill your characters (meaning the alphabet kind). Writing also helped me chuck 99% of my adverbs; nothing beats “he said” or “she said.” You want those dialogue tags to be invisible. I credit these two books and my experience as a student reporter in helping me get the job as a clarity editor for Grammarly.

Social media < Writing, Editing, Submitting

When I started my blog in October 2013, I thought I had to be as omnipresent as possible when it came to social media, but, after an incredible amount of spam I received on Twitter and people following just to get a follow, I ditched it and Pinterest, too. Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and LinkedIn is enough for me. (Often, what I post in one place gets posted in another). What time I used to spend trying to brand myself on all those social media accounts I could be spending building my vocabulary, submitting to actual publications, etc. I don’t have time to engage with all my followers — I need readers who aren’t writers. After more than three years of posting my Wednesday and Poem-a-Day prompts (in April and November) for Writer’s Digest on their blog and mine, I realized it was time for me to move on, which simplified my writing life even more. I needed content I could write ahead of time, so I could schedule it to publish on my blog at a later date. 

Submissions: Kitchen-Sink Theory Does Not Apply

I used to think I had to flood the market with submissions rather than focus on a handful of publishers. Targeting your publications gives you time to read and study them; submission guidelines alone will not provide intuition into what the editors are looking for. I have since discovered that my work would not be considered literary, so most small presses would not be a good fit; I have a better shot at larger publishers because of their more mainstream content. If I pick up a journal and don’t “get” any of the poems, then it’s the wrong publication for me; if I pick up a magazine and don’t enjoy any of the stories, then it’s not a good fit for my writing. This keeps me from being overwhelmed with reading material.

Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

Writer's Life

The Shutterfly Edition

Her poetic license had no expiration date,
for she went around putting line breaks
where she thought they should be,
inserting the Oxford comma wherever she went,
omitting needless words,
& clichés,
for just as brevity was literary minimalism,
clarity was literary purity.

When she brainstormed,
her fingers were like lightning
across the keyboard,
her words like thunder
as she hammered away at a clump of words
to create a viable human-interest story.

It was reading, writing, & arithmetic
in grammar school,
academics, arts, & athletics
in college.
Sara Lee Storey excelled in the arts,
writing about the academics, 
& editing the words of those
who wrote about athletics.

Book Review: Don’t You Cry

So I’d read The Good Girl by the same author. I finished it, but it was forgettable. (When you can’t remember a single character’s name, it was not a good book.) However, this one sounded intriguing, so I gave it a go.

Now a cover isn’t everything, but from an aesthetics point-of-view, the backwards R (like in Toys R’ Us) somewhat pissed me off (like businesses that spell “quick,” “kwik,” just to be different). I would honestly like to know what that backwards R was supposed to symbolize, if anything. (I just think it’s there so that people walking by will say, “Hey, a backwards R. Gee, this must be edgy.”

I think more thought should’ve been put into the title, rather than the way the title looked.

As for what was between the cover, all the nodding of heads and shrugging of shoulders drove me bonkers. What else do we nod or shrug but our heads and shoulders? “He nodded” or “she shrugged” would’ve sufficed. (These are the kinds of things you notice when you’ve read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.)

Furthermore, I found that the teenage boy, Alex, being enamored of Pearl’s “ombre” hair an odd word choice. What teenage boy would even know what ombre hair is (I had to google it), especially one so socially awkward?

That said, both points-of-view from which the story was told were equally interesting. The fact that we don’t get to know Esther before her disappearance made her more mysterious; learning who Esther is/was through the filter of her roommate was great. I’m glad the author didn’t get inside the killer’s head, because that’s a place I don’t want to be. There’s no way I could ever relate to a character like that.

Though I didn’t think the romance between Quinn and Ben was necessary, it didn’t take away from the story either. However, I think too many authors are guilty of plugging in a romantic angle—can’t two good-looking, heterosexual people of the opposite gender just be friends? Is that really so much to ask?

So even though I enjoyed the journey (the characters we were supposed to care about were solid and sympathetic), the destination (i.e. the plot) was like ending up in Ohio rather than Disneyworld. The denouement did not seem baked in, but rather tacked on; it was jarring, rather than an “ahhh” moment.

Yet, despite all of these faults, this book was definitely worth reading once.