If It Goes Without Saying...
Updated: Feb 6, 2020
I just got back from my once-a-month drum circle. If you've never been to a drum circle, it's basically a group that gets together and plays various hand drums and percussion instruments in a circle. One person usually sets the rhythm, and the others join in, embellishing or playing various patterns in rhythm. Often at least one person is the "heartbeat," playing the most basic repeated rhythmic pattern that remains the same during the whole drumming session. That's usually me. I find that when I try to introduce too many other things, I end up making a muddy mess of the whole thing. Less is more when it comes to my drumming.
The leader, Micky, is 80 years old and has been deaf all of his life. Watching a deaf man "feel" music is a wonderful thing. He has a cochlear implant and can understand if you look directly at him and speak slowly, clearly, and with a little more volume than normal. This summer, I had a romance with a man from Columbia who didn't speak English. Similarly, we found ways to communicate. Eye contact and hand gestures were essential.
You would think that my interactions with both of these men would be superficial, based on the language/communication barriers or that we would have many misunderstandings. But quite the opposite was true. I found that communication was more deliberate, leading me to more carefully choose my words, and even more carefully decide which thoughts needed to be shared. If it didn't really need saying, if it didn't add to the conversation or the moment, I wouldn't say it. And if it did, I had to pause and think about which words would best convey my meaning. As a result, we didn't waste our time with "chit chat" and banter to fill quiet spaces. We didn't speak quickly and rashly, having words we regretted but couldn't take back. We used only the words we needed.
In the context of writing, we do well to consider the same thing. We're used to shooting off emails quickly out of emotion or busyness. We may feel overwhelmed and submit an article or project without reviewing it (or better yet, having a second set of eyes review it). But if we take our time and look back at what we've written, we might find that we've tried to fill a whole lot of blank space with words that just weren't necessary. Try to read what you've written and ask yourself, "Do all of the ideas I'm sharing need to be shared in this communication, or am I trying to say too much? Am I repeating myself? Does each sentence support what I'm trying to say? Does every word support the sentence?" Most of the time, we can find ways to say the same thing with fewer words.
As with my drumming, I am trying to learn to keep my writing simple. If "it goes without saying," then maybe I don't need to say it.