Friday, November 13, 2009

The Hard Part

"The writer of any first person work must decide two obvious questions: what to put in and what to leave out." ~Annie Dillard

Someone asked how I come up with something new to write about every day. Frankly, that is not the challenge. The real challenge is how to eliminate topics because there are so many competing for this space at any given time. It's like a rural man who arrives in the big city without a plan. He's not sure which direction to go because so many avenues beckon. If the city is New York, any direction will yield an adventure.

[This paragraph is deleted.]

[This paragraph was delicious, but it is deleted, too.]

[This paragraph felt like it was not going where I wanted it to, so it is deleted as well.]

Evidently my thesis is not accurate across the board. Some avenues really are dead ends.

Ernest Hemingway, one of the great writers of the twentieth century, once remarked that "if I had more time it would have been shorter." In other words, he likewise left a lot of material on the cutting room floor. That's what artists do. They explore, try things, and when it works it is often magical. When it doesn't you realize it's got to go.

It might be that some people so love whatever they create it can't be touched lest it be marred. Editors hate working with these kinds of writers who treat every word as if it had been delivered by divine inspiration.

This morning when I sought out the context for the Hemingway quote cited above, I discovered an interesting blog devoted to this writer who made such an impact on the literary scene. One page features the top 5 quotes misattributed to Hemingway. This quote of his has also been attributed to T.S. Elliot, Voltaire, Mark Twain and even Blaise Pascal. Hmmm.

As regards brevity, Lincoln's Gettysburg address was delivered in three minutes, yet it has been remembered for more than a century and a half. Think about it. And... have a great day.

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