There are a couple of anecdotes that are attributed to Winston Churchill that illustrate some of the things about creativity and structure that make me go, “Yeah! Exactly. That’s it.” Anyway, I’ve heard others relate these stories so I’m not going to vouch for their accuracy…but here they are.
Number One. When he became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, Churchill sent a letter to all the admirals—there were hundreds at the time—asking them to describe “the state of the British Navy.” But he told them to do so on a single side of a single sheet of paper. Churchill knew that without telling the admirals exactly HOW to respond that he was likely to get lengthy and long-winded responses of various shapes and sizes.
Number Two. He once opened a letter to a friend apologizing, “I’m sorry this letter is so long, but I didn’t have time to write you a short one.”
…Churchill understands how the container for something actually dictates what that something will become. Kind of like McLuhan’s statement that “the medium IS the message.” By specifying the container or structure into which he wanted the creativity poured, Churchill forced his admirals to think harder about what they were writing, and (as the story goes) he got a swifter response from his admirals. Didn’t stop the decline of the British Navy in the 20th Century, of course. His comment about the letter tells the same story but in a different context. Every writer knows that coming up with the truly pithy phrase takes writing, editing and re-editing. Shorter is harder.
Yes, these are the things that get me excited. And this. And this.