Fresh eyes

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Creating clunkers »

Of course, sometimes you can take this way too far.

At this point it’s appropriate for you to glare at me and ask, “what are you talking about?”

In my head, it’s completely clear. I’ve been talking about shortening your prose for two days. I’ve given you examples from folk songs and mortgage documents to argue that you should revisit your writing and rip out all of those unnecessary words.

For me, that idea is fresh in my head because this blog is important to me. Even if it were important to you, you’ve probably done many other things since reading my post yesterday and my thoughts on tightening up your writing are not first and foremost in your mind when you start to read today’s post.

You need distance from that voice in your head. Sometimes it leads you to assume that your readers are as invested in your story as you are.

You need to do the writing. You even need to do the rewriting after looking at what you’ve written in the cold light of day—bUT—you also need a fresh pair of eyes to read what you’ve written without knowing what you mean.

At the closing ceremony for this year’s Third Coast Festival, musician Andrew Bird talked about the meaning of the music he was playing while his friend Jay Ryan produced sketches inspired by the music and what he knew of the lyrics and their meaning. They shared a ton of context. Jay was at once the best person to react to Andrew’s work and the worst.

Jay listened more closely to Andrew’s music than anyone else. He knew the back stories, and the context for both the story being told and what was going on in Andrew’s life when he wrote the song. It’s great to have someone like this looking at your work.

But you also need someone who is interested in what you are doing but doesn’t have that intimate connection. They don’t know what you mean so they can point to the holes in your story.

When you walk the reader off of a bridge you need someone reading your work who can stop you and say “wait! I had you back there but I’ve lost you somewhere before you got here.”

Spontaneity is for that first draft. This month of creation is fun. You are a kid again creating without consequences. Up ahead comes the rewriting. That’s the time when you have to become the adult supervision for that child.

For this part you mainly need support and encouragement. For that part you need a lot more support and encouragement—and you need help. You need fresh eyes and unfettered tongues. People need to feel free to tell you where something isn’t working for them. You and your helpers need to work this creation into shape.

Of course, sometimes you can take this way too far.