What lies beneath...

As regular readers of the blog know, we're big fans of Ernest Hemingway here at CHGR. His style is famously (and perhaps notoriously) spare and direct: it is a boxer in the ring, light-footed, throwing jabs and dancing away, and when each punch connects, you feel it.

There are those, however, who mistake directness for laziness; those who see simplicity as a lack of creativity. What's not commonly known is that Hemingway the writer developed his style in accordance with the concepts developed by Hemingway the theorist -- and chief among those concepts is the one he called "iceberg theory." In his own words:

"If a writer knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing."

Hemingway writes about, and only about, that which rises above the surface of the water, trusting in his readers to dive below the waves.  It's an enormously effective communication style, one that puts great faith in its audience -- you lay out your pattern of dots, and you trust that your readers can connect them -- but also one that lays a great burden on its messenger. 

To say it simply -- to say it as Hemingway might have said it -- iceberg theory's basic tenet is that less is more. The risk, though, is that if you aren't "writing truly enough"...if you haven't internalized the powerful core of your message, whatever it may be...then your audience will never be inspired to break the surface to see what lies beneath. They will simply steer the ship of their attention around you.

Writing is easy. Writing concisely is not. Do the former, and you'll be heard. Do the latter, and you'll be remembered.