I read a lot this days. Writers are supposed to do that, to perfect their craft and to understand the market. Besides, reading is fun!
I recently read a book I really like: Andy Weir's The Martian. I'll tell you about that in a moment.
Several months ago, someone (an agent, another writer my neighbor? I don't remember) said something like, "You are definitely a minimalist writer." Since I don't benefit from an MFA (yet), that title eluded me. If it meant I was short, then it could apply. If it meant I was skinny, well, not so much.
Turns out, some writers tend to write minimalist fiction. They like it. Those who don't tend to despise it (based on my research).
Minimalists, according to the "Read Write Think" blog*:
√ Use short sentences and tend to write short stories.
√ Use little figurative language.
√ Don't use a lot of character or setting description.
√ Provide little background information.
I used to blame my writing style on my years of corporate writing. As a training writer, I didn't use a lot of description ("When speaking eloquently to the wonderful and laser-like-focused audience sitting wide-eyed in the spacious hotel conference room..." Nope).
So, I'm a minimalist writer. There, I've said it.
And so is Andy Weir. (See, I told you we'd get back to him.). At least in The Martian. You don't get a lot of description of the Martian landscape or the flight director or the beautiful line of green trees hugging the horizon (I'm kidding. No trees on Mars). But you do get a lot of technical stuff. Way over the top tech description. After all, Andy was a computer programmer before hitting it big with The Martian (which, I should mention, is about to be released as a movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon).
At any rate, I've worried about my writing style for a long time. Why can't I paint beautiful, glowing word pictures like James Joyce or Joyce Carol Oates or Ernest Hemingway (Actually, not that last one... Hemingway is classified as a minimalist, too. Not bad company.)
So I was up about 4:00 the other night, reading The Martian. (The book's not that great - I had just awoken and couldn't go back to sleep.) That's when it hit me. Weir is a minimalist! Yeah! That's why I like this book. It's written by a minimalist for minimalists.
At that point, I was able to embrace my true minimalist self. It was such a gestalt that I sat up in bed, prepared to tell everyone, anyone, about my discovery. But nobody was around. My wife was out of town on a business trip. My kids were asleep upstairs in bed (and don't really give a damn about that sort of thing).
So, I've saved it for you, blog reader. Enjoy. Revel in this new realization.
I am a minimalist!
Remember that old thing we all like so much? You know... Your favorite blanket... Your favorite restaurant... Your favorite vacation spot... Your favorite group of friends... Your favorite...
We're comfortable with those things. We have certain expectations about them and they always come through. They're easy.
But they don't challenge us. They don't make us reach for bigger and higher and better. They don't help us reach our full potential.
The comfort zone.
A couple of months ago I stepped out of my comfort zone during a vacation to Puerto Rico. I checked off one of the items on my Bucket list, doing something I'd always wanted to do. I went hang gliding.
Not parasailing - getting pulled up wearing a parachute attached to a speeding boat. Done. Three times, actually, and the last time, I felt a little unsure of myself in my ripe old age.
No, hang gliding. Going up 3, 4 even 5,000 feet hanging from a kite and floating around awhile (with a certified pilot, I might add). Well, I did it. I stepped out of the old comfort zone, strapped myself in (actually, the crew strapped me in) and took off tethered to a little ultralight plane. When we reached around 5,000 feet, the pilot released the tether and we floated... over green hills, pastures and valleys and out over the ocean and the beach. What an invigorating experience! It's one I'll remember the rest of my life.
That's the thing about comfort zones. When we leave them, something extraordinary happens. After all, aren't our comfort zones simply ordinary? When we move out of them we move into the extra-ordinary.
Give it a try. Let go. Do something new. Take that first step. You'll never be the same again.