Most of the time, writers strive to eliminate cliches from our work, because they speak to a lack of original creative expression. They're generally vague and nonspecific. They seem to shout: this writer can't be bothered to write exactly what she means, so this overused hackneyed phrase will just have to do.
I DO think cliches serve a purpose, and so that's why when I'm writing a first draft, I let them fly. I'm not the sort of writer who can sit, fingers poised above keyboard, for long periods until I come up with the most interesting word or phrase -- at least not when I'm trying to get down the bones of a first draft.
I do that later.
When I'm making a first draft where none existed before, I tend to move quickly. So I write the danged cliche into the piece, and move on. And keep moving. Yeah, I know those stupid cliches have to go...but not now. Now, I'm busy getting a first draft out of my head and onto the page.
For now, that cliche is a place-holder.
Soon enough -- when I get the first draft to resemble something at least partially intelligible -- I will print it out, and grab my highlighter and mark each and every horrible cliche. (I do this for for adverbs too, but that's another blog post.)
Meanwhile, while they are still in place, I think about those cliches (figures of speech, euphemisms, etc.) and I ask myself what I really mean to say instead.
What is it I mean, precisely? When I can begin to understand and to answer that question, I can delete that horrid stale place-holder with something (I hope) more elegant, accurate and interesting.
Cliches can be a writer's friend, if only we can think of them as having found their way into our messy first drafts because they tell us something about an elemental truth we are trying to convey. They are good markers. They tell me - Hey, you over there, writer: here's a hint about what you mean to say, but egads, you can do a whole lot better than this!
I'm curious what others think. Readers, do we see eye to eye on this?
- The Writers Circle (Northern NJ) Summer 2015. I'm teaching in Ridgewood, Montclair, & Teen Intensive/Drew Univ.
- * I Should Be Writing! * Boot Camp: Reclaim Your Writing Life. A solo, on-demand, online course. Begin any time.
- Writing Coaching - Customized Assistance, Guidance, Editorial Feedback (booking Summer 2015)
- Editorial Services
- One-Week CNF Workshops: You Choose the Week(s) and Topic(s)
- Events 2015
- My Writing / Publications