WRITING A CONCEPT STATEMENT
In October 2008, I attended a weekend writing workshop at Ragdale. The teacher, Anne LeClaire, asked us to include a 25-word summary statement of the piece of writing we brought to share.
Using exactly 25 words, I came up with an overview of my writing that I thought was wonderful for packing so much into one sentence, making use of terms that implied entire bodies of thought, such as “ways of knowing” and “epistemological boundaries.” The word “sylvan” also evoked so much, making me think of the beauty of the trees and the mysteries of the forest. I was so clever I felt like I was cheating. I thought people would find it funny how it sounded like a diagnosis of pathology but was really a description of freedom from pathology. Then I read it sitting around a table of my fellow writers.
“SYLVAN WAYS OF KNOWING:
A nice, well-adjusted (i.e., miserable) WASP girl blows open her epistemological boundaries, finding herself terminally interdependent and spiraling down to earth.”
Dead silence. No knowing chuckles like I had anticipated. Finally a woman spoke up, “I don’t know what this means.” Others chimed in, agreeing with her. One added, “I don’t understand one word of it.” Anne said, “The idea is to come up with something you could say at a cocktail party to summarize your project.”
Oh. Back to the drawing board. I either needed to find a cocktail party full of academics who love jargon or rewrite the dang thing.
Now (August 2009), my book has changed focus. Sending in a sample of my revised work, my summary reads:
“This book helps readers get outside, quiet their minds, and learn from nature. Open the door, open your life.”
Not a word of jargon in it. I’ll see how that goes over.