The Art of Restraint | Words of Wednesday

The myth says all the author wants it to say and (equally important) it doesn’t say anything else. –C.S. Lewis, The Art of Writing and the Gifts of Writers


From C.S. Lewis’s essay “George Orwell” in The Art of Writing and the Gifts of Writers. 

I’m deeply enjoying listening to some of Lewis’s thoughts on writing (which inevitably means, to some extent, C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on fantasy/fairy tales) — many (most?) reprinted (and reread) from one of my favorite collections of his work, Of This and Other Worlds

This particular essay is, by no means, the highlight of the collection (which includes many of Lewis’s various defenses of children’s literature, fairy tales, and fantasy, along with such treasures as Lewis’s glorious review of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, his reflection on “The Novels of Charles Williams,” and his “On Stories” — which, along with Tolkien’s “On Fairy-Stories” and Chesterton’s “The Ethics of Elfland,”1 remains essential reading for anyone who believes that stories somehow matter), but, like so much of Lewis’s work, it is sane and insightful — thrilling with the magic of recognition: oh yes, exactly!

Lewis is ever capable, it seems, in putting the most complex of thoughts into the most straightforward of words. 

Reading the last of Stephen King’s Dark Tower books (a series I’ve been engaged in since the fall), I can’t help finding the quote above particularly pertinent. 

Knowing what to include, and what not to include, seems one of the hardest skills to get right as a writer. The Dark Tower series is — ironically — both an example of a writer excelling in this regard (The Gunslinger getting it so, so right) and utterly failing (Wolves of the Calla getting it so, so wrong).

And there is a world of difference between getting it right, and getting it wrong. 

Note: I listened to this book in audio format, so I’m relying on a combination of my own and others’ transcriptions (thank you, internet) without the ability to double check punctuation against the original text. I apologize for any errors in accuracy.

Footnotes:

 1. A chapter in G.K. Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy.

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