5 Cliches Authors Absolutely Should Use
Many of us have read William Zinsser’s admonition to refrain from using clichés. (If you haven’t read Zinsser, you really should). There is little doubt he’s correct: clichés indicate laziness and an over-reliance on shortcuts. Yet, he also says they are “familiar friends just waiting to be helpful, ready to express complex ideas for us in the shorthand form of metaphor.”
Sometimes I like clichés. I couldn’t sit down to write recently: no matter what I did, my mind wandered everywhere but where I needed it to go. Next thing I knew, silly sayings were running through my head so I wrote them down. Here are some clichés I thought of to help you get back to your writing.
- Altitude is Determined by Attitude. If you keep an open mind in all aspects of life you have a better chance at success. Close-mindedness stifles creativity and restricts the ideas you feel free to consider. When you allow yourself to explore new perspectives, your writing becomes fresher and more dynamic. You also learn a great deal about yourself. Use that new knowledge in your writing to explore dimensions of your world you hadn’t thought of: reach for new heights (a bonus cliché) in your writing.
- Better Late Than Never. Don’t beat yourself up (another bonus cliché) when you don’t keep to your schedule. Yes, it’s important to keep writing and producing. But you’re only hurting yourself when you criticize yourself for missing writing sessions. As long as you get back into your routine as soon as possible, you ‘ll make up for that lost time. But if you spend your time regretting something that is already lost, you’ll fall further behind. Remind yourself that you can still get the work done if you stop wasting energy worrying about the past.
- Crack the Whip. Sometimes you have no choice but to bring your mind into alignment with your goals. If you’re determined to get your ten pages written today, then you have to demand it of yourself, regardless of whether you actually want to write. Along the same lines: Quit horsing around! Buckle down. Keep your nose to the grindstone. You get the message: just sit down and write.
- Keep Your Chin Up. Writing is lonely work. It can even be discouraging. It’s also immeasurably rewarding. Remind yourself of the feeling you get when you meet your daily goals. If that isn’t enough, think about how you’ll feel when you finish this draft or rewrite. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as knowing you have completed a difficult project. Use that feeling during the writing process to help keep you motivated.
- Stop and Smell the Roses. Do you ever get so caught up in your work that you forget to live your life? It’s a great feeling when the words flow onto the page effortlessly – we don’t want to lose any ideas, so we keep working. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if we aren’t careful, long periods of intense writing can lead to burnout. Don’t get so caught up in the world of writing that you forget to enjoy the real world that surrounds you. Go play with your kids. Take your dog to the park. Treat your partner to a special dinner. Go to the gym, go for a run, go camping with friends. Do anything to give yourself an occasional break. You’ll come back to your writing with new ideas and a new perspective.
Finally, try writing without clichés! I had to rewrite several sentences to avoid them (and wasn’t completely successful) – they are so pervasive we often don’t realize we use them. But, when we write with them in mind we’re forced to truly think about our word choices. We become more conscious of the sound of words and the importance of making active decisions about what and how we write.
What are some clichés that you use frequently? How would you rewrite to avoid them?