Cleartext can really change your writing

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There’s a clever app called Cleartext that forces you to use only the top 1,000 most used words in the English language. This means you can’t write in florid prose full of adjectives and odd verbs. Instead, you have to write as simply as possible. I tried it today and loved it.

I wrote this. It’s very simple and it’s kind of a tone poem if anything else. But being forced to use simple words is very freeing and allows the imagination to fill in the gaps. It was a fun exercise.


The boy loved the girl. The boy was 18, the girl 19. They lived two doors down from each other but they did not grow up together. The girl’s parents loved God and didn’t let her go out with boys or even play with them. The boy, for his part, was a reader and did well in school. He never went out.
His love was hidden. He didn’t talk to her. He never saw her. He thought of her.

He thought about her most nights. He imagined her in a place with no doors and he would make her a door. He imagined her in a place with no air and he would bring air to her.

They lived on a nice street in a nice town. They never talked and one winter day the girl left her house and her parents put up flyers and went from house to house asking people if they had seen their daughter. She had gone somewhere and they didn’t know where.

They thought she was dead.

The boy forgot the girl for a time but he didn’t forget her face. Everyone thought the girl was dead. The boy cried for a long time. He cried a little every day and then he didn’t cry at all.

The boy went to college far away and then moved back to a town about an hour’s drive from where his parents – and the girl’s parents – lived. He married a friend from college and they had a baby girl.
He named the baby girl after the girl who lived two doors down.

One morning the boy went to a restaurant. He ordered eggs. He drank coffee. He didn’t bring his wife or baby girl. He was alone.

At the counter stood the girl. She was older but still beautiful. She had long hair now. She brought him more coffee. Their eyes locked for a second and she left. She did not recognize him.

Lives are walls and love is how you break them down. The boy called his parents from the bathroom.

The girl is in town. I saw her, he said.

His parents ran next door to tell the God-loving parents. They called the place where he was eating and the girl got on the phone and she was crying. The boy finished his food and left. The girl was still on the phone.

He returned home to an empty house.

Went to the park, his wife wrote on a note on the kitchen table.

He put his car keys on the counter and left the house to go meet his wife and little girl.

Lives are walls and love breaks through.

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