Distillation

Distillation modifies the character of what is distilled.  Whisky isn't just like beer but stronger: the difference is more subtle and complex than that.

Similarly the experience of reading a good succinct summary is different from that of reading an extended essay on the same subject.  The former is more concentrated; it may need to be (as it were) sipped slowly rather than taken in big mouthfuls.  This applies even more to an epigram, which is the ultimate distillation of a thought into few words.

Writing briefly can take more mental effort than writing at length, as witness these quotations about writing a long letter for lack of time to write a short one.  Perhaps those quoted had time to ferment their thoughts, but not to distil them.  At any rate brevity takes a different kind of effort: there are fewer words to produce, but the choice of each word is more crucial.  The difference between poetry and prose is closely related to this.

My writings on this website are usually towards the distilled end of the concentration spectrum, though not to an extreme degree.  In the liquid analogy, I aim to make them like whisky with perhaps a drop of water - whereas an epigram is cask-strength whisky.

I wouldn't want to drink whisky all the time: sometimes beer better suits my need, or indeed water or tea or apple juice.  Likewise there is a place for extended writing as well as for the concise.

    

Related topics

Writing style
Brevity
Aesthetics
Poetry
Reading

[Page created: 2012-03-10.]

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