I love sesquipedalians. Unfortunately, no one knows what I’m talking about…
Part of the reason I began to dip my toes in the writer’s pool was: I love the English language. I get a thrill when I discover a new word, or better yet when I learn how to use it in a sentence correctly.
But then I hit a snag.
While I focused on sentence structure and updating my vocabulary with floral prose, I had neglected a critical component in my writing. An element that caused me to isolate my audience unintentionally and in turn had them turn their heels.
Interpreting the correct tone onto your canvas is what separates an artist from a novice. It reveals your intentions to your audience and how you as a writer perceive them.
They want to be respected and feel empowered by your words. They want to feel satisfied with the message you have to offer. But they can’t reach their goals if they are constantly thrown into a maze of expensive words. Or are left wondering if they belong in the audience at all.
While words and tone are inherently different in themselves, both can influence the other. There is a reason we use the words we do, and the internal motivations reveal themselves by how they are utilised.
Think of them as kitchen utensils, each with their own price tag. Just like spending a fortune on knives won’t make you the next Gordon Ramsay, using expensive words won’t bring you to Faulkner or Austen’s level of skill.
This realisation was a bitter pill to swallow. My love for exploring the classics had shaped my writing into an incoherent mess of word dumps and excessive expression our world no longer cares for. I was trying to write to impress, not to express myself.
While I wasn’t able to find a magic formula to fix my sharp tone, I did find a bit of soul searching helped. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and my vulnerability revealed the truth. It was painful and exciting. A contradiction that gave me somewhere to start.
But, the most significant improvement was when I recruited feedback.
As a writer, feedback from a trustworthy source is more important than getting published or getting recognition. Feedback addresses your shortcomings and gives you an opportunity to grow and shape yourself. After all, what’s the point of writing if you’re not trying to better yourself and the world around you?
It wasn’t easy, but nothing worthwhile is. It was like I had an infection and the only way to fix it was a painful procedure. Exposal and removal.
It’s easy to blame the doctor for the pain you feel when the infected flesh is being stripped away, just like it’s easy to get caught up in our egos. It’s a defence mechanism, designed for self-preservation, but it tends to get in the way of growth.
Patterns emerged from the feedback, and the truth about my attitude towards my audience revealed itself. A direct reflection of my character stared back at me.
It was unnerving, listening to someone interpret my own words but it gave me an insight unparallel to the hours of rewrites I had previously done alone. It gave me a new perspective on the tone I was unintentionally carrying and a surge in respect for my audience.
I still love sesquipedalians and challenging myself as a writer with different styles and techniques. A desire to do better and be better is what drives me as a writer to push myself forward. However, now I can see my pretentious word arrangements for what they are. Overcompensation.