Monday Writing Motivation: The dance of words

 In How to write a book, Monday Motivation, Richard Beynon's blog

How do we know whether what we have written is any good? Give a piece of our writing to our families, who indulge us, and are likely to heap undeserved praise on our every effort? To our friends, who prefer not to risk the friendship, which is precious, and so reserve giving us a totally honest opinion?

Recently I argued that you are your own best reader. I’d like to add a little context to that today.

Last week I went to a memorial service celebrating the life of a man who, over the decades distinguished himself by the adventures he had, by the curiosity that drove him,  by his love of words, and through the anecdotes he generated. He was Nicholas Tresilian, and he was married to my cousin, Joanna Foster.

The church was crowded with friends and family. One of the first to speak about him was Joanna who, having given a warm and personal account of him, then read from one of his favourite poems, T.S. Elliot’s Little Gidding.

Monday Writing Motivation: The dance of words

Now, I’m not sure if you’re familiar either with Little Gidding, or the larger poem of which it forms a part, Four Quartets. Little Gidding concerns itself with large themes of death, destruction – it was written during the London Blitz – and salvation. But towards the end of the poem, Elliot turns his lens on himself, as a poet, and in a few pellucid lines describes a satisfactory piece of writing. It is one in which

… every word is at home,

Taking its place to support the others,

The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,

An easy commerce of the old and the new,

The common word exact without vulgarity,

The formal word precise but not pedantic,

The complete concert dancing together…

We should all copy this out and paste it to a convenient patch of wall above our desks. Why? Because it is a perfect description of the sort of writing we should all aspire to and judge our own against.

It’s not beyond any of us to reach the modest heights articulated in these lines. I’ve often argued that a key ambition we should nurture as writers is clarity.  I believe that what Elliot describes in these lines are precisely the elements that, together, generate that clarity of meaning and expression that I think constitutes truly beautiful writing.

Shall we dance?

Happy writing,


Here’s a good place to start your creative journey. How do writers develop stories, from that first germ of an idea to the fully-fledged narrative with an intriguing beginning, a solid middle and a climactic resolution? Sign up for our free booklet on creating your story. 

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Monday Writing Motivation: Drama lives between the now and the then