When Too Much . . .

. . . is . . . well . . . too much.

In writing, there’s such a thing as going too far, or overwriting. In her book Steering the Craft, esteemed author Ursula K. Le Guin says it’s important to “slow down and leave enough white space around the words and silence around the voice.” What you leave out in those pauses, she believes, is infinitely more important than what you leave in.  And yet, there’s a balance. Leave out too much and your reader won’t understand what’s going on. Cram in too many details, particularly in action scenes, and the pace falters. The rhythm, the speed, will be off.

Visual artists know this well. White space, whether that’s literal white space around an image or the grout that fills the gaps in a mosaic, is a key principle in design and applied arts. White space separates and highlights other elements. It allows the mind to rest and reflect, to absorb the message or the image. On the other hand, there are times when words or an artistic medium like paint are overused precisely because that’s the effect the creator is going for (the recent official portrait of King Charles 111 and his big red controversy comes to mind).

Overdoing has been on my mind a lot lately. The first draft of my current WIP is overwritten (as is my tendency in a first draft), the herb bed in the garden is overplanted (I love too many plants; what can I say?) and now my poor back is suffering because I’ve overdone it on a number of levels. My back warned me, but I kept pushing through and didn’t listen. I went too far.

Now, though, too much has been . . . too much.  I’ve been forced to slow down, to pay attention to my body . . . to rest and reflect and to relearn the lesson that life, just like art, also requires some balance. I think Ursula K. Le Guin would approve.

2 thoughts on “When Too Much . . .

  1. Another good post, Laura! Sometimes it is difficult to find that balance, but listening to your body helps. Hope your back feels better soon!

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