The Writer’s Almanac tells us today is E.B. White’s birthday – an event worth a little celebration among the prose manufacturing set.
After all, White edited (and improved) Strunk’s Elements of Style, a book I still pull from the shelf and leaf through when writing seems like hard work.
I fly fish often, and I’m willing to say that fly fishing is a lot like writing; neither responds well to the application of brute force, and while there’s no shortage of advice about doing either, you pretty much have to find your own way in both.
Which is where the Elements of Style looms large.
If I’m struggling to write, it’s usually because I’m trying too hard. Reading the direct, spare text in the book almost always helps, and if it doesn’t, well, it’s time to go fly fishing.
E.B. White also wrote for the New Yorker from 1925 to well into the 1970s, wrote Charlotte’s Web, and just generally filled the role of writer’s writer for decades.
In 1978, he received a Pulitzer Prize for the work he’d produced over the years, and once said “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.”
Keep writing, Tom Chandler.