A Brief Definitive Guide to Effective Writing
Write from the gut. Speak plain. Yet misuse language
perfectly. It isn't how you follow rules
but how you hang your heart upon the page
that makes the image clang onto the skull
and stick, like mud-packed rocks slammed
on the garbage can where all those readers huddle,
waiting for enlightenment. You must jerk them
out of there, take each by the ear
(the ear, you understand) and wring it
like the bell of doom, or like a cowbell, bell
on the cat or on your toes--ring! ring!--
until the image is embedded in the brain.
To accomplish this, forget the pedant's line
drawn in the dirt, like the border of a wealthy country
keeping all those nasty little foreign persons out,
declaring that on one side lies the poem, on the other
nothing but the poor third world of prose.
Ignore all that. Leap on whatever sentence gallops by
and ride it, bucking, down the road.
Don't be afraid of and and but, those darling
common little men in orange hats
who hold the stop-slow signs along the way.
Follow the trail of which. Such whistling blue-blood
And if you're partial to a dash––then dash.
Use colons, semi-colons if you like. Regard the colon:
like a pair of fox eyes watching where to strike
to make the thought just right; and how the semi-colon
before it leaps onto the line.
Punctuate, or not
The end effect makes everything correct. Yet don't forget
the peerless way the period separates, neat
as the anus of a short-haired cat; or how the comma,
fishlike, wiggles one consideration to the next.
Recruit the adjective. Without it, we'd have faces,
granted, but not glowing, lecherous, remote,
or luminous with greed--yet still not poker-faced.
Toss in a fitting adverb here and there (note the chill
difference between creeping and creeping nakedly).
Use repetition, onomatopoeia, double-entendre,
apt alliteration's artful aid--anything you can
to clang and clang that repercussive can.
Don't try to write how other people write;
listen to the words reverberating in your head.
And when rejection slips come whistling through the air
like poisoned darts, or when they say you're dancing
on the edge of prose, that barbed wire line,
invite them to come join, not stand there grimly
on the side like flowers along an executioner's wall.
There’s no guarantee you'll never make a nickel out of writing,
so you may as well have fun, not fall into the hell of
(listen to the syncopation in that line!)
Let the critics hang!