Your work is done when it looks so simple that the consumer thinks they could have done it, which means they won’t appreciate how hard you worked.
Easy reading is hard writing. To write well, you must accept that you will only publish a small percentage of what you type. As Hans Hoffman once said: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
Writing begins with a creation phase and ends with a deletion one. Removal is the essence of a final draft. Your scrap folder of deleted words, let alone all the thoughts you had before you ever laid your fingers on the keyboard, will always be longer than what you published. Only by silencing the part of your ego that wants to advertise your work ethic can you create a streamlined experience for your reader.
With just three buttons on the iPhone, Apple hides hundreds, thousands of hours of human labor. Likewise, the math formula you memorized in high school was the fruit of centuries of human thought. Comedy, too. Watch a Chris Rock special on Netflix and you’ll see the well-timed jokes and the sold-out arena. But you don’t see the work. You don’t see the 50 performances he gave at small comedy clubs around the country, and you certainly don’t see the jokes that bombed along the way. It’s the un-natural grind of failing, failing, and failing some more that makes Rock look so natural under the bright lights.
Elegance is the end result of hard work, not the starting point. Strive to make your work so invisible that the reader thinks they could have written what you published.
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