Back on the chopping block

When I start a blog, I have a sense of a theme and try to write the blog conversationally.

As I struggle to express my thoughts, I walk around my points and use too many words.  Derek underscored the latter failing in his comment about one of my blogs, “…There’s barely any room to breath. The piece is so dense with information that I feel a need to pause, take a breath, and continue.”   And segments of the blog often develop out of sequence.

When I edit the blog, I try to correct the sequence errors and cut the words, but, usually, I don’t cut enough and I overlook some logical problems.

Here are sections of two recent blogs.  I was wondering what you guys think about my over-verbosity, etc., regarding these.

From “Card models” on Grafetti:

“…Each chateau took months of patience to construct.  From a free-time point of view, summers are great for working on models, so in early summer, we would.  But NYC’s mid and late summers have a notorious humidity which softens everything, including paper.   Turrets no bigger than a pencil’s diameter, tiny conical roofs, and minuscule chimneys wilt and curl, either too much, or too little.  So in the mid-summers, the card model work would stop, not to be resumed until October or later.

…As we assembled the paper models (it had to be done without glue — glue was cheating!), we got a sense of how hard it was to live in a chateau.  There weren’t  many chimneys on this one… it would be cold in the winter.  All the chateaux had crazy steep roofs covered with irregular slates.  Maybe… wasn’t that why castles fall down sooner or later — the roofs are too hard to repair?  Where were the bathrooms?  Or did they have outhouses, or piss in the halls, as the French nobles did at Versailles?…

From “Constructionist cooking: what is it? … ” on Open Grafetti:

…Over a span of twenty hours, the half turkey breast will have contributed to twenty-two servings of three different main courses, and six servings of soup.  It will have taken only about an hour of hands-on time for me, including the cleaning-up.  The good economy of time and money that a slow cooker makes possible, by using it to construct several dishes from a single base, would be difficult if it weren’t for a mild climate, like we have in NYC.  A slow cooker is like a little oven, radiating a significant amount of heat as it cooks — that is, for hours and hours…

I have some thoughts about these sections, which I’ll share in a few days.

love, h



Filed under blog drafts

8 responses to “Back on the chopping block

  1. derek

    Hey Heath
    Here is one way I would write these sentences. Keeping in mind that some people are smarter than we think and some are not.

    From a free-time point of view, summers are great for working on models, so in early summer, we would. But NYC’s mid and late summers have a notorious humidity which softens everything, including paper.

    For free-time , summers are great for working on models, so in early summer, we did. But in mid and late summer in NYC, that humidity, softens everything, including paper.

    People who can relate to the different aspects of an article need few words to spark their knowing and there are not enough words for people who have never experienced, say, humidity. I grew up in Houston, just the mere mention of humidity brings up a world of memories while my friends here in Colorado have no idea what it means to sweat all day long, or the cold dampness of winter.

    The first sentence gives information, the second some time for pause and reflection.

    This is just one of the endless ways to play with your words. The process can be just as fun as the product.


  2. Dear Derek

    You make lovely sense. My son shared this with me — thought it might blow you away a bit:

    love, h

    • Ed

      Why, ‘as if’ talking to a supervisor ?

      • Mike’s not really talking to a supervisor. He’s wearing a headset outfitted with tiny camera, to act as a “drone” to show the scene to Phil, and receive Phil’s instructions as to what to do on his covert mission. The screenwriter changes the screenplay by having Mike do some plausible action with the headset for two reasons: to draw the audience’s attention to it when it’s filmed, and to provide cover for it — or someone might wonder what an A/C worker is doing walking around with a headset on in the first place.

  3. Here’s how I would have edited those two sections:

    “…We needed patience. Each model took months to build. The paper models had turrets no bigger than a pencil’s diameter, tiny conical roofs, and minuscule chimneys. In the hot and humid NYC summers, the paper wilted and curled, and we’d have to stop working.

    “…As we built the paper models (no glue — glue was cheating!), we thought about what it would be like to live in the beautiful chateaux. Some didn’t have a lot of chimneys, so maybe they’d be cold in the winter. They had steep roofs which would leak. The chateaux would get water damage and be uncomfortable for living. Were there outhouses, or did people just piss in the halls, as they used to do at Versailles?…“

    “…With just an hour of my time, including cleaning-up, the half turkey breast will yield twenty-two main course servings, and six soup servings — an economical use of time and money. The slow cooker makes it possible. But the mild climate of NYC makes it possible, too, because slow cookers throw off surprising amounts of heat…“

    When I compose a blog, a cloud of interconnected bits of information feed the piece. Often they come into the blog in no particular order. My language becomes overly complex and verbose as I try to link the bits and create structure on the fly. Because I’m new to creative writing, I tend to celebrate the very fact that I had something to say and the energy to put it together, by letting my words stand more or less as they came to me. I don’t write for my readers, taking enough of their need for simplicity, straightforwardness and structure into account.

    Yet when I write for business, which I’ve been doing for years, I’m very sensitive to my readers.

    I guess for me, right now, creative writing is a fragile place that exposes me in a very personal way. It seems to be about personal validation, as much as anything else.

    For me, all writing is about telling a story. The narrative aspect of a piece of writing is what really matters. The rest is about style and subtlety. Style and subtlety without story become ornaments. But with story, they make for good writing.

    I’m a strong story-teller when I write for business. But when I write creatively, I’ve been getting lost in a personal celebration of the flow of words, a flow that — for me at the moment — tells the world I have something to say that’s not being paid for, that comes from my spirit. I think this recognition that I haven’t been editing my blogs well enough is the next step for me, in learning to be a creative writer.

    The one thing it’s important for me to remember when I edit is I don’t need to spell everything out. People are good at constructing full pictures from just a few hints. I not only need to be sensitive to readers, I need to trust them, too. I do it in business writing. But in creative writing, because I’m not sure of myself, I haven’t been paying attention to trusting readers. As I find my feet, I hope to get better at this.

    love, h

  4. derek

    Heath, you are so right about your creative writing. You are trying too hard. You are trying to give the reader all the information. I heard a composer say the most important part of the music are the pauses. Those little silent places.

    I ran sound and mixed music for years when I was young. My goal was to be able to hear the space between the instruments. Otherwise you could not hear any of them, it became noise.

    To interact with an audience you have to give them some space to play along.

    You have this quality when you are not trying to have it. I remember it from IB.

    Thank you again for sharing this process.


  5. derek

    Oh, I watched the video and love the way he talks through the process and you see the changes on the screen. I like the way he works through his logic and allows for that space and for the intelligence of the audience to fill in some of the gaps.


  6. Dear Derek

    I am pretty decent at making those spaces in poetry and fiction, but in essay-style prose (and blog comments) I still tend to be way too discursive.

    In the first post I made since I heard Seidel read (see for the story), I had a decent response from readers, in part, I think because the post was netty (had holes like a net, yet had structure enough to hold together). Seidel certainly broke open my concept of what I’m doing when I write poems. Maybe the effect is spilling over onto prose. (Though not into comments, as yet. 😉 )

    Re the video, I was blown away by how powerful it was to watch the process. And that was followed hard-on-heels by the experience of hearing Seidel read his own work, which was as powerful a teacher. Untraditional, non-immediate-presence teaching modalities that capture some of the process work a treat.

    love, h

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