Words of Wisdom

September 19th, 2011

From Somerset Maugham’s own introduction to Of Human Bondage:

For long after I became a writer by profession I spent much time on learning how to write and subjected myself to a very tiresome training in the endeavour to improve my style. But these efforts I abandoned when my plays began to be produced, and when I started to write again it was with a different aim. I no longer sought a jewelled prose and a rich texture, on unavailing attempts to achieve which I had formerly wasted much labour; I sought on the contrary plainness and simplicity. With so much that I wanted to say within reasonable limits I felt that I could not afford to waste words and I set out now with the notion of using only such as were necessary to make my meaning clear.

I do not know that I have ever taken instructions for writing so much to heart as these few lines. What a clear path they offer — as fine as a razor to walk, but stretching out straight and true, without obstacle or stumbling block — provided of course that one is able to keep one’s balance and not listen too closely to the echoes of those who lost their way and tumbled off the precipice.

Well that was a mouthful. I see myself wobbling already.