[Continued from .]
Now I’m thinking of Gary Lutz and his Lishian sisters and brothers who see the sentence as the wellspring of creativity. I’m not a Lishian. Assertions about good sentences are bona fide ways to get me paralyzed from creating. But that’s not to mean I don’t like gussying up my sentences when such gussying occurs to me. And lately, when I gussy it’s been more of a gussying down than up. If I can see a way to make my sentence clunkier, or to let it dabble in a bit of redundancy, I want to take it.
For example, last week I wrote an announcement that The Cupboard, the pamphlet series I and my friends have been running in different permutations for oh eight years or so, is getting new editors. We three are stepping down. It’s good news, in that those stepping up have more time to dedicate, and thus The Cupboard should flourish. Here’s the first draft of how it started:
The Cupboard is about to release its 20th volume. This doesn’t necessitate a change, it just happens to happily come with one.
I had two problems:
- Twenty volumes might, given some set of circumstances, compel a change. I sure changed after my 20th. So I felt like I needed to say that, while it might necessitate a change, it doesn’t necessarily do so. Such a change isn’t inevitable, is what I felt I wanted to say. Was that the same as compelling change? Yes and no?
- It’s fine to split infinitives in English. I know that. Still, I don’t always like to. But to not split “happens to happily” I’d have to have “happens happily to”.
Solving problem 2 gave me the license to solve problem 1. I wanted to use both words and I wanted to put them together because I figured I could and that it would be the kind of sentence a workshopper would stumble and thus pick up his pen over. Again, I saw my opportunity and took it:
The Cupboard is about to release its 20th volume. This doesn’t necessarily necessitate a change, it just happens happily to come with one.
It’s a clunky and ugly sentence, and I love it. As someone who spends so much of his time trying to articulate what’s good and bad about writing, I see that sentence and I see that it’s bad, and I love it.
It’s the best sentence I’ve written all month.