One insight from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones has already affected how I write. Here it is:
“In the early seventies there was a study done on women and language that affected me deeply and also affected my writing. One of the things the study said was that women add on qualifiers to their statements. For instance, […] ‘I like this, don’t you?’ In their sentence structure women were always looking for reinforcement for their feelings and opinions. They didn’t just make statements and stand behind them: ‘This is beautiful.’ ‘This is terrible.’ They needed encouragement from outside themselves. (By the way, what they found to be true for women they also mentioned was true for minorities.)
Another thing women did in their speech was to use a lot of words like perhaps, maybe, somehow. Indefinite modifiers. For instance, ‘Somehow it happened.’ As though the force were beyond understanding and left the woman powerless. ‘Maybe I’ll go.’ Again, not a clear assertive statement like ‘Yes, I’ll go.’
The world isn’t always black and white. A person may not be sure if she can go some place, but it is important, especially for a beginning writer, to make clear, assertive statements. ‘This is good.’ ‘It was a blue horse.’ Makings statements is practice in trusting your own mind, in learning to stand up with your thoughts.
Don’t carry the fog out on paper. Even if you are not sure of something, express it as though you know yourself. With this practice you eventually will.” (p. 85 & 86)
Sure enough, I love using modifiers like “a bit” or “perhaps,” especially in blog posts! Sometimes they are justified, but often they are not. So now I am trying to rid myself of that habit. I shall see what that will do. Perhaps (!) it will lead to clearer writing. It reminds me of my first MFA class, when the (male!) professor gave us a list of words not to use. Among them was “very.” “Either something is blue, or it’s not blue,” he said. “Either you’re sad, or you’re not sad. If you’re more than sad, find a different word.”