Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cover Your Tracks

Now the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back.

Annie Dillard
The Writing Life

I'm not heeding my own advice enough. This morning I got up knowing only that I should write a blog post and that it should be about style or usage. The words "style" and "usage" together cover a vast area; I might as well have said I had to write about writing, or write about language. Or just write. My theme did not offer me a focus. My plan did not begin with a task.

So we have this rambling post about not knowing what to write. Actually, now that I'm writing, it feels sort of good. "When you write," says Dillard, "you lay out a line of words." There is something pleasing about doing that freely, for the sake of getting words down itself.

I have been doing a lot of editing these past weeks, both of my own work and the work of others. When we edit we are trying to find those "soft and careless" parts of the text that seemed so important at the time. Those sentences may have been enjoyable to write and that might make it hard to change them. But remember that the joy was in the writing of those words. If it is no longer a joy to read them, they will have to go.

I have now gone ten minutes over my writing time. I got up late and I didn't know where to begin. Everything was wrong. Perhaps tomorrow the birds will eat the crumbs.

No comments: