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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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using original metaphor

I recently stumbled across a website devoted to the practice of writing journalism which features an excellent series of articles called 50 Writing Tools, authored by someone named Roy Peter Clark. Writing Tool #8, called Seek Original Images, discusses the use of clichés and "first-level creativity." That's a great phrase, and this excerpt from the article containing some George Orwell illustrates the point perfectly:
"Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print," writes George Orwell. He argues that using cliches is a substitute for thinking, a form of automatic writing: "Prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house." Orwell's last phrase is a fresh image, a model of  originality.
After reading this article, I remembered reading an essay years ago by Orwell about the state of English writing, so I googled him and found it right away. It's called Politics and the English Language, and it's worth reading if you're interested in this sort of thing. Written in 1946, the essay still rings completely true today. And after reading through my latest draft of my short story with a more critical eye, I discovered at least a half-dozen worn-out phrases that were completely lacking in originality. So revise them I shall!