How Do You Carve Your Words to Make the Most Impact?

Get the word out!

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. Michelangelo

There are similarities in art no matter the medium. It’s all about creating.

It’s about having the vision of the finished piece before starting. Or maybe just enough vision and inspiration to make the first cut of a sculpture. To write the first paragraph of a book. To make the first brush stroke of a painting.

When a woodcarver or stone sculptor sits down to carve he doesn’t use the small knives first. Right?

The project will likely start by cutting the proper size wood block using a chainsaw or chop saw.

Then a large knife for the larger cuts. Then medium. And then fine.


Carving words

The first draft is all about getting the idea down. The core message. The story.

Only later, the process of whittling down and condensing and making it lean and agile.

Fat writing is lazy writing is writing that doesn’t communicate clearly. When it’s vague the reader may understand the deeper meaning or get glossy eyes.

May we resolve to write in a way that keeps the flow with enough words to communicate the meaning with only selected garnishes. Tastefully beautiful.

As I brave the waters of the on-going flow needed to maintain a blog, I see the importance of developing a discipline. A rhythm of communication.

And the need for taking the time to remove all unneeded words until the angel appears, as Michelangelo did.

Then doing it over and over and over.

It seems the best thing that can happen on the rewrite after the first draft is to remove unneeded words.


What have you learned about writing that works every time to make the words come off the page and communicate most clearly? Please comment below.

  • Ricardo Bueno

    I try to follow the advice of Eugene Schwartz … write to people’s hopes, dreams, and fears. When you can understand what their hopes, dreams, and fears are … when you can put yourself in the customer’s/reader’s shoes and understand what it is their seeking, then you can really start to write something that’s going to have an impact on them.

    Not always easy to do, mind you. But when you take that extra step and care to do that part right, you’ve got something good.

    • Arlen Miller

      Thank you so very much for your visit, Mr. Ricardo. I just checked out Eugene Schwartz. I found several posts about his writing about the hopes, dreams, and fears of the reader. I also found a post on Copyblogger. Fascinating! The one about writing 3 hours a day. Thanks so much for joining the conversation, Sir.

    • Elaine

      Ricardo, your advice coincides with a point Arlen often makes…Your story must intersect with other people’s lives.
      Put that side by side with the advice that has been repeated so often I can’t even remember who first said it … “Kill your darlings.”
      I try to look at whatever I’ve written and separate my darlings — those things I’ve written simply because I love the combination of words, the unique metaphor, the creative punch, whatever it is my pride loves about those passages — separate those darlings from the content that goes truly from my heart and life to the hearts and lives of my readers.
      And the amazing thing is that when I can identify and kill those things that come only from my pride and then focus on making my humbler (is that a word?) and more honest writing even more vulnerable — those posts and stories always seem to connect better and get a greater response from readers.
      Of course! Because we all (readers and writers) want to connect.
      Yet it’s still a constant struggle … pride vs honesty and vulnerability.

      • Arlen Miller

        Interesting, Elaine. Thanks so much for sharing that. I hadn’t heard of the ‘kill your darlings’ concept before.

  • Dan Black

    Before writing, I make sure I have thought out the topic I’m writing about and also have a clear outline. This system allows me to communicate my ideas and thoughts effectively. Great post!

    • Arlen Miller

      Thanks, Dan. It’s great to learn from you. From your experience in the trenches.

  • Dan Erickson

    I tend to write lean the first time. My editor always tells me to add rather than cut. What I’ve discovered is that being a minimalist with words and saying only what needs to be said works.

    • Arlen Miller

      Interesting, Dan. It’s fascinating to see how the art and creating of the art varies according to the artist. Thanks for sharing that, Dan.

  • Audra Rogers

    I agree Arlen. It’s so easy for me to get off on an unrelated tangent,
    so I usually end up hacking it down. And as we heard at the writer’s
    workshop, I don’t throw anything away. I’ve found that side notes and
    other cutting-room-floor thoughts become posts of their own later.
    Thanks for this post. Writing is certainly an art form, like any other.

    • Arlen Miller

      Wonderful to hear from you, Audra. Thanks so much for your visit. I’m glad I got to meet you at Brentwood. Thanks a bunch for joining the conversation.