Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Perils of Editing

When writers sit to work, we soon discover that a great deal can happen in one day. An activated imaginations can lead into places impossible to reach through a simple shift in physical geography. We can be pulled through deeply rooted personal memories, unattainable by regular reflection; we can be placed before emotional consequence we feel entirely unprepared to negotiate.

What informs the path of writing so carefully assembled through choice of words? How can writers remain confident that one series of scenes or notions, followed through imagination, will benefit the story we endeavour to tell? We devise the opportunity to work, reducing distractions & any potential conflict to writing time, so how can we guarantee the language captured will fit into the vague, overall conception which is understood through occasional glimpses?

How we manage to edit as we create will assist in this mysterious process of intuitively recognizing the useful strands of an overall vision. The threshold of experience is critical in detecting differences.

Imagination may be of use in this grading of quality: fragments offering no merit will become easily obstructed & resist inspection from different viewpoints within the narrative. These obtuse sections are what must be sacrificed & even though beautifully constructed, if they serve no purpose to overall coherence, they must be sacrificed. Their elimination requires a type of ruthlessness that effective writers administer with a combination of regret for what-must-go & the hope that something more supportive will emerge to replace what has been deleted.

Still—this instinct to cull the superfluous or misleading might be influenced by disappointment. Judgment can be confused under the evaporating effects of guiding vision. Is it better to axe-out what we suspect is extraneous immediately or wait to see if a place emerges further into the work? If we risk loading down a story with beautiful-yet-incongruous sections, we might find ourselves unable to build the narrative we suspect.

Uncertainty prevails: if material is discarded too soon, there is a risk of whittling down potential of the initial vision which first compelled. The dilemma pits protective instincts against jurisprudence & a desire to be tacit.

Can a compromise be settled somewhere between these polarized instincts? Can we build a relationship between a firing imagination & the conscious part which needs to assemble what has been surfaced?

{Images by Jonathan Meese}