Repeating Yourself

There was a great little piece on the NY Times Opinionator blog about “the art of repetition,” and about how someone becomes a better writer – by learning to write thank-you notes:

Having opened my share of thank-you notes over the years and having watched my kids write their own, I knew that nonwriters treat the process as an exercise in efficiency. Find a nice way to say something, and then copy and paste. The shorter, the better. Get it done and cross one more name off the list.

My notes to my mother’s friends were each quite long and singular. I didn’t follow a template. Some started with “thank you,” some ended with it. I often used the task at hand, thanking them for the gift, to express something deeper: gratitude for being a part of my family, for putting up with me, for coming to my basketball games. I used anecdotes and details.

To become a writer, you have to follow a few rules: Show, don’t tell. Avoid clichés. Be specific. Try not to repeat yourself.


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