Writers get so fixated on the mechanics of writing that they forget how much they can learn from the other arts about line and the uses of space. Good writing, like a good watch, should have no unnecessary parts, and that’s what great art shouts at us: Tell the story with no unnecessary parts.

William Zinsser inspired by simple geometry he saw in Matisse’s work. Every year he reads a sentence to his students, one that accompanied a panel where Matisse was quoted about his infatuation with what he called African cloths. Matisse said, “I never tire of looking at them for long periods of time and waiting for something to come to me from the mystery of their instinctive geometry.” Zinsser reads it to the students in his writing classes. “I don’t tell them what it means — how it might apply to their own writing — because I don’t know. I just want them to think about it.” He continues, “Think about it. Tell your story as plainly as you can, with no extra parts.”