Tag Archives: james joyce

Fight Against Lazy Writing


Although I am not necessary an advocate for perfection, I am fierce fighter against sloppy writing. I believe in “less is more”. Write like you would be boxing, every hit has to do damage to your opponent. Strip away all the fluff, edit and then condense even more.

I have been reading this excellent book about making of James Joyce´s Ulysses and it reminded me of this Ezra Pound´s classic poem called “In A Station of the Metro” (right spacing in the above picture):

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Short, isn´t it?

The story behind this imagist classic is inspiring. Ezra Pound stepped onto the platform of a metro station and caught a glimpse of transcendent face amongst the crowd. As he turned to follow it, he saw another ones. This mesmerized him and he wanted to write poem about it. He wrote over thirty-line poem about it, tried to finesse it but eventually tore it up. It just was not working the way he intended (Pound was fierce editor). The sight haunted him and he tried to write it again six months later. He failed miserably. Eventually he finished the above poem, year after. Only two lines and 14 words: nothing more and nothing less.

That story should be the guiding light for everyone who has to write in his or her work. Simpler is more difficult to write, but it is more effective. The same Ezra Pound laid out the three laws of writing imagist poetry in his “A Retrospect”:

  1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

These rules are worth to live by even when not writing poetry. Essentially you must cut the crap, get to the point and let it flow. In advertising where our space is even shorter, it is disrespectful to our audience to write lazy copy. We should be always sharp, simple and short.

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