by Sue Faris Raatjes©

What is it about January and purging? Holiday excess often leads to the desire for simplicity. Many of us clean, sort, and purge in the first month of a new year. It makes us feel free and it’s a good way to experience a new beginning. I suspect orderly physical surroundings can even help clear the brain.

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The popularity of the bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, attests to the popularity of this ritual. The book has appeared on bestseller lists for much of 2015. Obviously, the author meets a need as she writes about the Japanese philosophy of beauty in simplicity.

Purging benefits writers, too – not of physical surroundings but of WORDS. Someone once said, to improve a piece of writing, cross out every other word. Ernest Hemingway was known for his succinctness – brevity of words. His novels are short but powerful. We have much to learn from this great author.

Here is an exercise guaranteed to help you tighten up your writing:

  • Select a current event that evokes strong feelings and formulate a question.
  • Respond to the question in 150 words.
  • Now whittle down that response to 100 words.
  • Finally, cut it down to a mere 50 words.

Repeat this exercise several times with various topics. Soon your brain gets the message and you find yourself turning out crisp writing. Instead of using two wimpy adjectives, select a strong one. Eliminate such useless words as “just,” “very,” or “I think.”

At first you may agonize over eliminating beautiful phrases you spent time developing. Eventually, it becomes a contest to keep the essence of your argument in a bare-bones response. It’s fun, in a nerdy sort of a way.

Now for a tougher challenge:

Do the same exercise as above, only take the OPPOSITE viewpoint. You not only will tighten your writing, you will stretch your brain. Ouch! The result is critical thinking.

____________________Sue Raatjes
Route to Survival, a novel by Sue Faris Raatjes, is available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Sue is a former high school English teacher, freelance writer, and Bible study leader. She has four children, 10 grandchildren, and lives in Phoenix with her husband, Bob. Read more of Sue’s writing on her blog, Grow with God, or click here to visit her website.

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