T r e a d Softly... YOU MIGHT TRIP ON TEXT

Monday, March 19, 2007

Words, words, words

The problem with writing something big--- like a novel, that is--- is that you have a carry case of "matter" wherever you go, and all sorts of impressions and ideas get collected in it, so that sometimes you feel tempted or even obliged to add all that stuff in your work.

It might present itself as an interesting possibility; only when you read through later or get a second opinion do you realise that you've been "hacking" into your own work through sly interpolation of peripheral detail. It takes such a long time, and you often get tired with words. If you read something really good in the meantime, there is a possibility that you can return fresh to your own work (without being too inspired by what you've read, hopefully). So the problem is Ideas & Words. I get into this obsession with words sometimes--- the sound and "feel" of a word; so much so that the meaning and the "fit" often suffer.

Freshness is all.

The word, its meaning and context have all to sharpen and live for you to be able to do the same for your reader. But when you're reading through large tracts of text you've written, you sometimes get fed up or alarmed or bored, and even good writing can appear stilted through over-reading. The best thing, I find, is to put it aside and return later.

But, still, re-reading is a must. Polishing your work when you're fresh is part of the craft. For me it is instinctual writing followed by craft. Which becomes the art! Having been a newspaper and magazine editor helps you to be precise and objective if not ruthless when confronted by favourite turns of phrases that don't really belong in your work. I have new writers sending me their work now and then to be evaluated, and the problem in most cases is that they've not read and re-read. And they just don't have it in them to cut out portions that don't belong.

Freshness is a mental state that is brought on by physical readiness. Walking, exercising and meeting people are "distractions" that become essential for a writer.

Which is why I wonder why I'm still sitting and staring into this screen day in and day out (sometimes, night-out too) ad losing all that freshness.


Y-Shoe said...

Editing, as a matter of fact, is one of the most valuable lessons for any writer. I'd come down to saying that editing is an art actually, to know whats needed and whats not. More like you have to have it IN you. Trained editors are neevr as sucessful as the one who have the natural talent.

Reading and re-reading I do, but it surprises me, how much I can come up with and change a single sentence just re-reading it a week later. I guess its because of all the things we see and notice and read. Like the Chinese proverb says "Something is learned everytime a book is opened" I guess we're sub-consciously learning something or the other!!!!!!

Susan Abraham said...

Thank you.
What an interesting post! I shall bookmark it as a stern reminder for myself. :-)


Y, i guess it's finally a combination: training and instinct. trained editors have often interfered to the point of changing the sense of a passage. so you're right there. but there've also been others like the editor who read my Mohini the first time. all editors should be like her!

Susan, thanks! it was meant to be a stern interior monologue actually!

P.S. proof's in the pudding. the last line of my blog: shows you what happens when you don't really re-read!

Gounder Brownie said...

Hello :) I got here seeing that somebody had got to my blog from a reference made on this blog...those were some very kind words you said down there...it made my day :) Thanks and keep visiting!!


absolutely! you can't keep me away.
actually i did leave a comment on your august 05 blog about the poetry competition, but i realized that was way behind line!

Susan Abraham said...

A stern interior monologue.
Yes, I know.
It was sad that you thought all this online communication meant losing out on a freshness.


it's not all the communication, it's the hibernation. it must be different for you since you travel. i've been planning and planning to. i'm still planning!

Susan Abraham said...

Yes, it's different for me. And you must travel. India is so vast and kaleidoscopic, it may be an easier delightful option if you're short of time.
Thanks for the kind words on my poem. :-)


i think this is the year!
i'm crossing my fingers for everything to fall into place.
or perhaps, an unplanned dash out.
those weren't kind words, by the way. they were honest words of wonder.