Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Theory of omission

Doing an ornithological quiz last night and found myself crossing out quite a few answers. In fact not a great success unless the team were allowed a net of suggestive responses.

However it did make me think of a writing exercise.

Try this.

  1. Take a look at your old MSS and home in on the crossing outs.

    Note: when I write I am very confident about erasures once I have decided on my line of argument. But I will keep a paper copy if not often with a number of alterations that I let bed down until I decide what I want. Often what I end up with is none of what I have written down.

    Note two/too: if you write digitally, rootle about in your edit mode. You should be able to see how you have crossed things out and go back a few versions. You may need to set it up as a default. If so, write a bit before going back over stuff or you will get a false reading - you will be self-conscious however hard you try not to be.

  2. Now you can do a number of things:

    a) home in on your changes and excise them into a separate poem.

    b) find a moment of major pivot where you decided to shape your work one way and this time go the other direction e.g. change the rhythm or even form back to how it started; focus on the egg or even the tree instead of the nest...

    c) concentrate on the mistakes you made in handwritten copy or recordings - I don't want to get all Freudian on you - but treat these replacements/stumbles/omissions as a little gate into somewhere else, a clue: what was trying to get out there? Make that hint the subject of another piece of work.

  3. If you take nothing else away from this exercise, at least you will have a greater understanding of your editing process. But I usually get a bit more than that from rummaging in the attic.

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