November 15, 2013


Dear M,

He was a person who lived his life to the fullest.

I don't know why I dislike this phrase so much. Maybe because it implies that the rest of the world does not know how to live life to the fullest and they live it by the quarter or in fractions. So whatever they have achieved in life is worthless? (Makes me feel guilty that I am living it in bits and pieces at the moment.) A person who lives life to the fullest gets to do what he wants, is that it? Others who have family and career pressures or money issues or such, cannot live to the fullest? This person has certain privileges that others don't? You know what it is leading to, right?

Or maybe I dislike it because I have heard it so much. It's one of those overused phrases people use in stories when they want to describe this man. (The author of the story is evidently in love with this person-who-knows-to-live-life-to-the-fullest.)

That's what clichés do. They do not let you focus on the story, they make you squirm over a simple, single, small, overused phrase lying around. In support of the cliché, I would say this: in most cases, they are so apt and precise, that if we use them, we don't have to go looking for other methods to explain our thought to our reader. (But at the risk of having our reader groan at the phrase.)

Writing guides are quick to point out that clichés should be avoided at all costs. "Avoid them like the plague." (Heard that one? Yeah, it's an overused joke.)

But the truth is that we all have to go that route if we are to get rid of them. If we haven't used any cliché in our life, how will we know how not to use them? We have to cross that bridge first. We have to use them, overuse them and then get tired of them. That's when originality kicks in.

I am, once again, talking about normal people, of course.


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