Coronavirus Part 2, Day 14- The Power of a Single Idea

Writing is telepathy.

Stephen King

Today I had virtual drill, which means I spent all day sitting in front of my computer and on Zoom calls. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Frankly, I had a good time. Since my husband has taken the main office on the first floor thanks to WFH, I moved my computer and things to the third floor when all this COVID stuff first started. It’s an ample space with windows everywhere and a constant flood of natural light. I also share this space with Nick, who has also been here, all day, playing Fortnite. While I thought this arrangement would be very annoying when I first moved my things up here, it’s actually fantastic because it means we spend time sharing the same space when I come up here to work. Some people might judge this as poor quality time. I disagree. Time is time, people. It’s Ordinary Time and it counts. I wrote about that here, if you care to know.

As part of what I worked on today, I was trying to offer advice on a training plan for a field exercise we have this summer. Naturally, the people organizing the training want their plan to meet several objectives and teach many things at once. I argued the point that since it’s a small scale event (and somewhat last minute), we should aim to teach only one thing, but teach it well. And I thought about how funny it is that in training, as in writing, people try to pile many ideas into one thing. I’ll explain.

When I was first learning how to really write as an adult, I used to flood my pieces with several ideas and too many modifiers. Or they would be too short as to be unfinished. The end result was not terrible, but the writing wouldn’t add up to much. The problem was– and I learned this only by producing lots of bad prose– is that the best writing is tight and complete. Often for a piece to be impactful, it can only express one single idea. It’s the depth of the idea that changes, but not the number or variety of ideas expressed in a single work. This applies to simple writing, like this blog post, or something more complex, like A Farewell to Arms. What is Hemingway’s masterpiece about, you ask? Well, it’s about a lot of things, sure. But it’s really about love and loss of the most profound. That’s it.

When Stephen King said writing is telepathy, this was brilliant. I would go a step further and say teaching or communication of any kind is telepathy. Which is exactly why a single idea is so powerful. And limited. Because how much new, earth shattering information can we really process in one sitting?

Me. Penny. A rainbow. Yesterday.