President Trump “might finish his presidential term without ever speaking a complete sentence—subject, object, predicate,” critiqued conservative columnist George Will in The Washington Post two days after last week’s presidential debate on September 29.
While Will’s words are an exaggeration, they contain a truth: President Trump often speaks and writes in disjointed phrases rather than in complete thoughts. Perhaps this is because his preferred method of writing is tweets—tiny bursts of information which dispense with the rigors of grammar.
I wonder what past presidents would think of Trump’s fragments? Cerebral Jefferson—who composed his classic sentences using elegant Eighteenth Century logic? Plain-spoken Lincoln—who crafted beauty and compassion from one- and two-syllable Anglo-Saxon words? Poetic Kennedy—who relied on myriad figures of speech to inspire his generation and ours?
What words of Trump will be remembered by posterity? You’re fired?
If you have watched Sex and the City, you might remember a particular scene. Miranda has dated a man whom she likes, but he doesn’t phone to ask for another date. She frets until the current boyfriend of Carrie says, “He’s just not that into you.”
“He’s just not that into me,” Miranda muses. And like the snap of fingers, Miranda stops blaming herself for the relationship not progressing. It’s not her fault. He’s just not that into her.
That’s the same attitude we writers need when someone shrugs off our writing. “She just doesn’t like my point of view.” “He doesn’t get my humor.” “She disagreed with what I say.” “He thinks my story is too sad.”
And that’s okay. Just because someone’s not into your writing doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It means whatever you’re “selling,” they’re not “buying.” Next!
Even writers who today are considered great have their critics. Hemingway writes too plainly. Shakespeare’s too hard to understand. Henry James’s novels contain no action. All Tolstoy’s women characters are either childlike or fallen. Agatha Christie’s characters are one-dimensional.
The next time someone criticizes your writing, say to yourself, “They’re just not that into me.” And then move on.