Can you master nonsense as well as you have already learned to master sense?

„If someone asks you about your day, you don’t say, »Well, first I opened my eyes. Then I blinked and rubbed them. Then I placed my left leg on the floor, and then my right.« You would bore them to death. Instead, you eliminate the extra detail, and concentrate on communicating what is important. That is exactly what you are supposed to be doing [..]” – Jordan B. Peterson’s Essay Writing Guide.

The „I opened my eyes” bit stood out most from Jordan B. Peterson’s Essay Writing Guide. A chance to let my imagination run free. Maybe even a test for a mutual sense of humour and love for the unconventional. Especially since he did not talk about strict academic writing but daily essay writing (up to three hours) for personal practice and development. Surprisingly, he dissed his „I opened my eyes” bit sharply, set it as an example of digression and inability to identify what’s important. Nevertheless I kept thinking about it, „Why would anyone rub perfectly rested eyes?”, „What is his technique of getting out of bed, how does he sit up so that he can place his left leg first?”

„People’s brains function better in the morning”, I agree now that I’m 46 years old. I would have begged to differ when I was 17. I tried for his „rule of thumb, a paragraph should be made up of at least 10 sentences or 100 words,” but fell short. „A paragraph should present a single idea, using multiple sentences,” dares me to put multiple ideas in a single sentence. Furthermore I applied three of his other tips on this post:

  1. I wrote 25 % too much and then cut it down again. „Aim at producing a first draft that is 25% longer than the final draft.” I used to think of this surplus of words as wasted energy, but now I’m thinking: scaffolding, consumable supplies and materiel in building construction.
  2. I re-wrote sentences that seemed fine, I did it as an exercise, and chose the best version.
  3. I re-arranged sentence order to see what flows better, is more precise and meaningful.

All solid tips. „Read each sentence aloud, and listen to how it sounds. If it’s awkward, see if you can say it a different, better way. Listen to what you said, and then write it down”, challenging. Speak first, then write. I like that. Usually I write first, then speak. One sentence stains the next. Monkeys laugh more than lions. Bananas are more fun than meat. Humour, especially good humour, is the last resort, the place we find when we’ve made it through the worst. Jumping to it conscientiously is better than drowning.