The world is full of natural outsiders…

Word count: 287 words

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. That’s why, every week, I present a sentence that I’d happily imitate. Today’s comes from Jonah Lehrer.

I know. It’s not de rigueur to like the writing of Jonah Lehrer — a fabricator of quotes. He was fired from the New Yorker and his most recent book, Imagine, was withdrawn by its publisher because he had idiotically “made up” some quotes from Bob Dylan. I find it deeply ironic that he manufactured quotes for a book on creativity of all things. But, nevertheless, I like his writing because I find it sparkles with clarity. A graduate of Columbia University, where he majored in neuroscience, and a Rhodes Scholar, Lehrer also backs up his work with some impressive academic credentials.

I just finished reading Imagine, which I enjoyed enormously. It also gave me my sentence of the week:

The world is full of natural outsiders, except we don’t call then outsiders; we refer to them as young people.

First, I like that he knows how to use a semi-colon correctly; each side of the punctuation mark must contain a complete sentence that could stand on its own. (Why don’t more people understand this?) Most of all, however, I like the delicious ping of aha that the sentence delivers. I read it, put the book down and thought about it for a moment. I hadn’t expected the zing of that line but, it’s true, so many of us consider young people as “outsiders” even though we don’t call them that.

When a writer can deliver an idea that is both totally unexpected and completely true, he gets my attention.