No Ideas but in (Beautiful) Things, a Craft Essay from Jody Keisner

May 7, 2020 § 2 Comments

JodyKeisnerIn her craft essay, Jody Keisner illustrates how she applies the notion of “show, don’t tell” along with William Carlos Williams’s phrase, “No ideas but in things.” She provides remarkable examples of how writers use objects—a flower, a button, a ladle, and more—to conjure symbolism and abstract ideas in their essays:

The small happenings explored in [River Teeth magazine’s] Beautiful Things are often mundane and deceivingly simple, yet they become exceptional through the writer placing a unique focal point on an object or a thing—a relief for writers who worry that their lives are too ordinary to write about.

I eventually learned how to apply “show, don’t tell” purposefully to my essays. Both this maxim and “no ideas but in things” remind writers to meet readers halfway when illustrating our intended meaning, but not all the way, encouraging engagement with our prose. And so “no ideas but in (beautiful) things” is one method of many that we might use to effectively reveal truths about our own ordinary and beautiful lives.

Read the rest of Jody Keisner’s captivating craft essay in Brevity’s May 2020 issue.


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