Friday, February 24, 2012

The Silence Of Writing

I read an interesting story today about the impact of today's "now" environment on the ability of a writer to produce copy which has had time to adequately breathe; be vetted and edited and honed to its finest point.

In the article I read they cite the example of Walt Whitman who took more than a quarter of a century to produce 'Leaves of Grass.'

I might offer an equally compelling work produced in something like three weeks: 'On The Road' by Jack Kerouac, published in 1951. It is the quintessential work of the Beat Generation and stands as one of the greatest examples of American literature ever produced. True, Kerouac used notes from his many trips across the country, some dating back as far as 1947, but the process of transforming those notes into a coherent manuscript was done as part of a non-stop process taking a scant few weeks, on one long roll of paper. (I've seen the original manuscript and it includes the authors notes, etched in pencil.)

Is there something to be said for carefully, methodically producing your written work? Of course. But only if that is how you truly feel the work needs to be produced. The fact is, each writer is different. We create based not on a timetable or by looking at the clock, marking the hours, days, weeks, months or years we've worked on the project. For the best of us, our written work is finished only when we feel it is finished.

I can polish off a short story in an afternoon. Does that make it something less than it would be if I spent the next decade working on it? I don't think so, and only my opinion matters when it comes to my work.

Should Leonardo have continued to tweak the 'Mona Lisa' simply because he didn't take long enough on the project in the first place? Ridiculous.

No one can tell an artist, whatever their medium, when their work should be finished. It simply doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of your work. It's done when you feel it is done.

Having said that, there is certainly something to be said for the benefits of proper editing. Spelling and grammar often make a big difference in the quality of your story. Although again, examples such as 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'The Color Purple' show that not everything needs to be approved by the grammar police before being published. Instead, correct so that the essence of the point you are trying to make will not be misconstrued by the reader.

In the final analysis what matters most about your writing is what you think of it. You are your own worst critic. Appease yourself and you're more likely to appease the folks who will ultimately read your work.

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