Anyway, I came across a recent post on E. B. White's view of the essay as a genre of egoism. Negative connotations aside, he's completely right. But I suppose it's nice (for me at least) to think that the vice of self-centeredness is indeed possible of being translated into art, which can (paradoxically) be done without obvious traces of pretentiousness (if successful). (Lots of parentheses today, apparently.) Being an editorial staff member with Fourth Genre has made me a frequent reader of creative nonfiction, and I've learned that reflection and introspection are the essayistic moves I most admire; essentially, I love what makes essays egoistic.
Anyway, all of this preface is leading into yet another connection. A Brain Pickings post linked from the one above features E. B. White on why brevity is not the gold standard for style, which greatly intersects with a conversation at a recent Fourth Genre editorial meeting. Our main discussion got a bit off track (as can sometimes happen) and we got to talking about the general preference for "lean" writing, as influenced by the styles of journalism and Ernest Hemingway. As a naturally wordy person, the idea that such a preference for style is a dominant trend saddened me. I really shouldn't be surprised, with so many modern communication platforms and readers favoring or demanding extreme brevity.
But the Brain Pickings post brings up a selection from the Letters of E. B. White that is too good not to share again:
Often a word can be removed without destroying the structure of a sentence, but that does not necessarily mean that the word is needless or that the sentence has gained by its removal.
If you were to put a narrow construction on the word 'needless,' you would have to remove tens of thousands of words from Shakespeare, who seldom said anything in six words that could be said in twenty. Writing is not an exercise in excision. It's a journey into sound. How about 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow'? One tomorrow would suffice, but it's the other two that have made the thing immortal.
Contemplating such questions is one of my favorite parts of my profession. Another is recognizing that traits like "self-involved" or "wordy" don't have to be negatives, but can be the elements from which a creatively complex, abstract, or otherwise incommunicable idea becomes fully realized.