Browsing Crooked Timber this morning, I found some good advice for writers in the shape of Chesterton on George Bernard Shaw:
”œA quick eye for ideas may actually make a writer slow in reaching his goal, just as a quick eye for landscapes might make a motorist slow in reaching Brighton. An original man has to pause at every allusion or simile to re-explain historical parallels, to re-shape distorted words. Any ordinary leader-writer (let us say) might write swiftly and smoothly something like this: ”œThe element of religion in the Puritan rebellion, if hostile to art, yet saved the movement from some of the evils in which the French Revolution involved morality.” Now a man like Mr. Shaw, who has his own views on everything, would be forced to make the sentence long and broken instead of swift and smooth. He would say something like: ”œThe element of religion, as I explain religion, in the Puritan rebellion (which you wholly misunderstand) if hostile to art ”” that is what I mean by art ”” may have saved it from some evils (remember my definition of evil) in which the French Revolution ”” of which I have my own opinion ”” involved morality, which I will define for you in a minute.” That is the worst of being a really universal sceptic and philosopher; it is such slow work. The very forest of the man’s thoughts chokes up his thoroughfare. A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.”
Some days I think the role of commenters at The Agonist must be to tell you that you really should have written the second sentence…ah, the glory and occasional frustration of blogging!