I write too much.Not so much that I update more often than I need to, but that when I get going on a topic I frequently have trouble getting myself to stop. It's an issue I've been aware of for a long time. Pretty much as long as I've been writing stuff for the web. But especially now as my work is starting to find it's way to other outlets. Especially as the web continues to lean towards becoming something people look at on a screen on their phone.
I mean, on this blog I have the freedom to do what I want. Write pages of ideas and ramble through whatever topic I'm focused on at the time. But lately I've been sending stuff around for review and publication -- and all it ever seems I do anymore is edit things down. Slash and burn.
I'm frequently wordy. Expository. Loquacious. Garrulous. Voluble.I don't know -- I like the way I write. I enjoy the process. I actually take pride (especially in my more topical pieces) in the way my pieces work through ideas and try to set things up. But more and more when I see the same words against a background other than this blue blogspot color scheme, the more I realize that the posts I write are simply too long for the web. Perhaps too much for magazine or newspaper standards as well.
I love that people check in on this site and read my stuff. Consider what I put down on the page. Comment and discuss.
The weird thing is, the stuff I post on here is edited down. The originals are usually a lot more scattered and loose. My former writing professor, mentor, and good friend Rick Straub was always a big proponent of what he would sometimes called the "splatter theory." We'd talk about writing and he'd always be like, "Just spill the paint all over the canvas. Go Jackson Pollock with your ideas on the first pass. But then when you're done take a good hard look at what's there and edit, edit, edit. Never ever hesitate to take a chainsaw to your own work."But would my overall readership be wider if my entries were shorter?
I haven't thought about it in a while -- but back in the day Rick would get on me quite a bit for writing too much. He was always easygoing about it, but he'd go back to the point again and again."Good writers are great editors," he would always say.
Anyone who ever had Rick Straub as a teacher knows all too well what it was like to twist and turn your pages sideways to read the hand-written comments he would scrawl in the margins. Cryptic underlines, circles, and exclamation points.
And if you were really lucky, there would be a note at the end sort of summarizing his impressions of the piece.
It's weird, because in a lot of ways I'm a totally different writer than I was then. It was college. My ideas and themes were similar, but whenever I look back at pieces from those days I notice how much more unfocused and aggressive the pacing of my pieces would be. I still like a lot of the stuff I did in those days (I was a regular contributor to a locally published magazine as well), but it sometimes feels like I'm reading someone else's imitation of the writer I am now.
I remember Rick once telling me, "Part of the problem is that you're too attached to your jokes. And I hate saying that, because you're a funny guy. I laugh reading your stuff. But sometimes you waste energy and words setting them up. Everything you put on the page should add to your point. Anything that doesn't needs to get cut. It's your ideas that make your stuff worth reading. Focus on that."
I wonder what he'd think of my writing now, if he were still around to see it.So many of my favorite authors are concise in their approach. Their work is filled with open spaces. Pauses in the music. There's room to think and consider the things they are talking about. In some ways I try to emulate that -- but it's almost like even when I'm hitting the right groove, I'm still playing much more than the song calls for.
I don't really have any way to verify if this is true or not (although I believe that it is) -- but the story goes that one day Miles Davis was talking with John Coltrane, and he asked him why he tended to play so many notes on his saxophone whenever he played a solo. And after thinking about it for a moment, Coltrane answered,Reminds me of my favorite Miles Davis story:
"Whenever my solo comes up, I'm thinking about the mood of the song. The feel of the changes. And so when I start playing notes, I'm trying to explain what I'm feeling through the music. And as I'm building that idea I'll start getting other ideas, so I'll play those too -- and the next thing you know I've got all these musical ideas cascading down on top of each other. It's like a stream of consciousness that sometimes I don't really have any idea how to stop."And after hearing all of this, Miles Davis looked back at Coltrane
and says, "Have you ever tried taking the horn out of your mouth?"I don't know -- what do you guys think?
[Listening to: The Cure - "Other Voices" ]