Day 139. My Outtakes

When you’re making films, television programs and even commercials there are always portions of the work that don’t make it into the final product.  They end up film‘on the cutting room floor’.  They’re the ‘outtakes’.

It’s not that anything’s necessarily ‘wrong’ with them.  When the editor and director sit down to put it all together, they just may not ‘fit’.  There may be better versions of a particular scene or performance.  And sometimes they’re mistakes.  When actors flub their lines.  Or when the unexpected happens at precisely the moment when the cameras are rolling.  Bloopers.  And blunders.

They don’t all end up in the trash.  More and more, we’re seeing them added to DVDs, as special features.  And sometimes they’re included at the very end of the film, as part of the ‘credits’.  We enjoy them, because it’s a peek behind the scenes.  And it’s also a chance to witness a slice of someone else’s reality.

I think the same thing happens in ‘life’.  Not every moment of our existence is captured in perpetuity.  We don’t Continue reading

Day 116. Be Brutal

Pete Armetta has a WordPress blog I very much enjoy.  He’s a powerful writer of poetry, flash fiction, essays and short stories; and I’m always struck by how few words he needs, to say so much.  Which, incidentally, is much easier said that done.  His ‘style’ brings to mind a favourite Mark Twain quote:

“I am sorry to have written such a long letter, but I did not have time to write a short one”.

Says it all.   Because the true measure of a writer is the ability to self-edit.  To be ruthless.  To choose words carefully.  To make every one work hard.  And having talent is the least of it.  It takes discipline.  Love of the craft.  The ability to let go.  To love ’em, but leave ’em, on the cutting room floor.  To know when you’re done.

So really, a writer’s best friend isn’t a computer.  Or a dictionary.  Or a thesaurus.  It’s the eraser.

Luckily, I learned that very early in my career. It was hard.  And painful.  But the best thing that could ever have happened to a young writer, just starting out.  Which is why I wrote a blog post about it.

When I commented on Pete’s poem, and how much I admire his ability to keep only what’s absolutely essential, he responded, Continue reading

Day 47. Polishing Work

Chris Martin Writes is one of the many WordPress blogs I follow.  Yesterday he wrote about editing one’s work, and how it’s not one of his favourite things to do.  He also wrote about some tools he uses, successfully, to help him make it a more enjoyable process.

I, on the other hand, love it.  In fact, I have to perfect as I go.  Every couple of paragraphs I have to stop, re-read, tweak, polish, change, edit; otherwise I can’t go on. Every writer I’ve ever met, or worked with, has his or her own style.  I had a writer, who once worked for me, who was all about stream of consciousness.  He just had to get it all out and down on paper, without worrying about spelling, grammar, punctuation, flow or anything else.  He  knew it would be all right, in the end.

He’d always give me his first draft to look over.  He wanted to know if he was on the right track, before he invested a whole lot more time and effort.  Fair enough, I suppose.  But as much as I liked him, and his work, every time I’d see him headed for my office, with sheets of paper in his hand, I’d groan.  Because I’d have to read and re-read and re-read his work just to make enough sense of it — before I could figure out if it answered the brief, or not.  And, as a result, for the first fifteen or twenty minutes I’d spend all my time correcting the errors, instead of evaluating the work.

It’s just the way I am.  I get distracted by the imperfections.  I can only read objectively and give thoughtful feedback when I’m looking at a really good draft.  Even when it’s my own work.  I love perfecting work, whether it’s mine or another writer’s.

But I’m lucky.

Very, very early in my career, when I was just starting out, I was given an opportunity to learn a wonderful lesson.  One that has stayed with me, to this day.  I was Continue reading