Blaise Pascal once wrote that writing succinctly can be hard. It’s something many of us aim for, yet few of us master. As awriter who is often guilty of rambling on and subsequently going off on tangents I couldn’t agree more. Writing succinctly is hard for me. My words are my babies. I want them all to shine on the blank page. After the first draft is done I find it difficult to edit out the unnecessary words. Brevity has never been my forte. Neither has been simplicity. But that is something that I continue to work on improving.
To be able to condense an idea into as few words as possible without compromising it requires clarity of thought and a ruthlessness with words that eludes me on most days. And that is one of the reasons I like Twitter and admire those who I regard as masters at tweeting. A tweet gives you only 140 characters to express yourself. It is the perfect training ground for writing succinctly in that regard. Especially for someone like me who needs the practice. But it’s not just having a platform to practice on that appeals to me. There is also the added bonus of getting an insight into the workings of the minds of other writers and ‘Creatives’, one tweet at a time. (Sidebar: I have never been a fan of people calling themselves ‘Creatives’. Doesn’t sound very ummm … creative. Intellectual property developer on the other hand…)
If there is one person who is brilliant at the art of writing succinctly it’s the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole. Teju Cole a published author of the 2011 bestselling book ‘Open City’ is a master of tweeting. He puts the wit in Twitter. He is able to play the most beautiful games with language using just 140 characters.
This is not an easy feet by any means. I have tried. And failed. Dismally. I first became aware of Teju Cole a few years ago when he was doing his Small Fates project on Twitter. He would tell a story based on stories he read in the papers in just one tweet. He was somehow able to paint a complete picture while leaving out almost all the details. I was in awe. I still am.
Ever since his timeline has continued to be a both a source of inspiration and a reminder of the beauty of simplicity.
Teju Cole’s musings on Twitter provide a haven from the clutter of all too similar tweets about the latest breaking story. Unlike a lot of people on Twitter, Cole doesn’t spend much time regurgitating other people’s opinions.This makes him one of my favourite people to follow on Twitter.
As these tweets suggest, Teju Cole can run the gamut of literary genres on Twitter: reportage, epigram, autobiography. But what I find most refreshing is how much they revel in their simplicity. And therein lays his genius.
You can follow him @tejucole