Editing

It’s been said that it takes two to create a masterpiece- the artist and someone to shoot the artist when the work is finished. After I have written something I find it often continues to occupy my attention even after I have dusted off my hands and pushed the publish button on a blog post or sent a query letter along with the first ten pages of a manuscript. Over the ensuing days, I have a case of the, “Oh, there was just one more thing I wanted to mention.” Maybe, I think, I’ve discovered a clearer way to explain something, or an example to further illustrate a point. In some ways, this desire to add represents the downside of the “details” I wrote of in the previous blog post. When does the addition of detail no longer enhance intimacy (as I suggested previously), but obscure it from the reader/observer? When I was a minister, I had to raise money. Planning for a meeting with a potentially very generous donor, I huddled with the CEO of a very large company who was a member of my parish and would be joining me on this important call. He advised I should resist the temptation of overselling. “David”, he said, “don’t vomit”.  Too much detail. Not enough detail. It’s a conundrum.

I have been thinking about editing and what we leave out of our work, as much as the detail we add to it. How we balance these two seemingly countervailing drives shapes not just what we create (outflow), but how we experience everything (inflow).

I am exploring this theme in the story I have for the moment called THE ROW HOUSES ON MAPLE STREET. What happens when a boy is told that his apprehension of reality has been constrained by the limited perception of the adults in his life? That leaving childhood has required him to shed a rich (and in this story very real) world that has included imaginary friends, angels, gods, monsters in the closet, boogey men, magic, paradox, and a kind of grandiosity that finds expression in the belief that he can do anything. What if this child discards a vastly expanded view of reality only to learn that his path to adolescence “edited out” access to a very real world which now lies just beyond his grasp because of a constrained system of beliefs?

Would it be a blessing or a curse to re-cultivate a belief wide enough to recapture this world while living in the dramatically edited world of adults? Would the child be “flooded” by the inflow of too much reality to retain his sanity? Could the child thrive in a world where he sees and experiences what others cannot? I wonder if this child might learn to harness this knowledge so that it manifests as power? Would the child be able to learn to edit, or perhaps better learn to manage, the bombardment of such an expanded reality?

I believe this child may need a mentor to help him adjust to a complete change in the rules of the universe, someone to help him with all this new detail; someone to help him with editing.

Now I will contemplate whether I pushed the publish button too soon.

Always welcome your thoughts?

 

-David Heaney

April 11, 2017

2 thoughts on “Editing

  1. Couldn’t help remembering teaching high school seniors about “selection of detail” in my A Lit and Comp classroom. Prologue to the Canterbury Tales characters, Beowulf, it was a great opportunity to think about the intentional inclusion of detail, vrs. the intentional absence of it– thoughtful comments, David. Fun to think about it again in this light.

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. This is a question that I obsess over almost daily. This might be a central question to everything we do. How much should we leave out.? As a teacher I always believe that I become overly didactic when I want to discuss a piece of literature that I am clearly passionate about. Often I feel I am providing too much of me and not eliciting enough from them. If I take signals from these iphone adolescents I can tell when I need to edit my remarks and start asking more from them. As a director of theater, I always try to caution actors from being overly demonstrative in order to make sure the audience “gets it”. (as an audience member in both films and plays, nothing makes me more apt to leave than when a director tries to shove something on me in an obvious way) I believe nothing flexes one’s editing muscles more than writing. Especially writing poetry. That is the best way to cut the detritus from our work.

    Blogs are a different thing. We don’t have to heap the same editing standards on those bits of writing. We get to play in the fields of our ideas and then set them to paper. Your journey in the writing is your private Idaho. If you become too caught in the editing, it will paralyze you.

    That being said, I have a blog set up and an audience that has been waiting for me to write about my travel experiences. However the editor in me is a little terrified of putting anything out there for people to judge.

    I have let the thought police keep me from writing or ever pushing the “post” button.

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