Beware the parenthetical
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” belts the Great Oz. And oh how our attention goes there. Immediately, we peer behind and around or we want to, first chance we get, when no one is looking. Because when someone says, don’t look, that signals it is something they don’t want us to see, which means it is something important we should know. Or we’d be well-advised to, anyway.
We writers are a funny lot where this is concerned. We control the power of the pen! We put onto the page only what we want readers to read (except for the parenthetical, of course). That’s something we have left out but can’t quite bear to move on without recording. It’s what’s behind the curtain. And it’s very, very telling. Because parentheses immediately draw attention to it and away from the flow of the work. They draw attention to the author instead of the authored. And that stops you cold.
I am very grateful to the people who first showed me the effect of striking the words in the parenthesis. You don’t need them. In fact, you’re better off without them. Edit yourself out and let the words speak for themselves. Trust the reader to come to the right conclusion, or at least the conclusion that is right for them. What right do you have to tell them?
Somehow there is incredible power in this editing of self so the word can speak. I would do well to keep telling myself this every day. Because the temptation always exists to add just one little aside, one tiny exasperated expression, one telling remark (because after all we don’t need to hear this but others do, right?) And in that moment my pile of pride is right there on the page, glowing in glossy splendor.
Oh, I don’t deny it. There is that authority figure that comes knocking every time I sit down to write, but I can resist it, if I want to. Even if it means writing those words and then erasing them. Very much better when erased because, my goodness, how full of myself I appear later when I read it again and I’m painfully exposed all over the page.
My job, as author, writer, blogger, and probably too as mother, wife, coach, cook and everything else, is to pour everything I have and all that I am onto and into the effort and then disappear from view. No boxing or dodging. No arguing or sarcasm. No excuses and no apologies.
Say what you need to say in a way that pours right through you. Do your best not to meddle with it much. Give it the honesty and sincerity it deserves, but don’t claim it. It’s not yours.