I’m not sure whether to be heartened or dismayed by the number of my students and editorial clients who exhibit the same problem I routinely have as a writer.
If asked what the story is about—what the protagonist wants, why he wants it, what stands in his way—I often encounter the same creased brow and thoughtful nod I provided my own teachers, with the inevitable, “It’s complicated.”
And the response is equally inevitable: “That’s exactly the wrong answer.”
To mangle a phrase: I can overthink a goddamn potato.
My mind sees endless variation and nuance in the simplest things, and what elaborations it doesn’t see it creates.
I used to consider this a sign of intelligence. I thought that those constantly harping on the KISS Principle—Keep It Simple, Stupid—were mediocrities lashing out at those who had an IQ over room temperature.
The kind of people who think all modern art could have been churned out by their four-year-old.
The kind of people who mock the blues and country music as crude and opera as, well, operatic.
The kind of people who think money alone measures excellence.
But that was snotty arrogance on my part. I wasn’t just mistaken. I was lying to myself.