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

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Day 60. A Milestone

It’s been two months, since I first had the crazy idea of attempting to write something new, every day, for a year.  Sixty days.  Sixty stories.  Sixty different topics.  Six hundred and twenty-one tags.  Forty-four thousand, seven hundred nineteen words.

And sixty grande Pike’s to keep me going.

Damn!  That’s half a novel’s worth of work.  That’s one mother load of a blog.  And I’m not even close to being done.  Done in, occasionally.  But not done.  I’ve written on more subjects I could ever have imagined, from aging to atoning.  From beauty to books.  The Caribbean to cycles.  Distractions.  Entertainment.  And fantasies.

On googling.  Health and history.  From ignorance to intentions.  Joy and love.  From mischief to  music and naturopathy.  Politics and prejudice.  Refining to rituals.   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