|You've Got To Keep Grinding, Until You Find The Very Essence|
by noteworthy at 7:20 am EDT, Mar 28, 2013
Simplicity is not about making something without ornament, but rather about making something very complex, then slicing elements away, until you reveal the very essence.
You've got to keep grinding.
Writing the story at seventy lines didn't mean the compressing was over. At the end of the week (or "at week's end," as we would have put it, in order to save three words), the makeup people would invariably inform us that the story had to be shortened to fit into the section. Since words or passages cut for space were marked with a green pencil -- changes that had to be made because of something like factual error were in red -- the process was called greening. The instructions were expressed as how many lines had to be greened -- "Green seven" or "Green twelve." I loved greening. I don't have any interest in word games -- I don't think I've ever done a crossword or played Scrabble -- but I found greening a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. I was surprised that what I had thought of as a tightly constructed seventy-line story -- a story so tightly constructed that it had resisted the inclusion of that maddening leftover fact--was unharmed, or even improved, by greening ten per cent of it. The greening I did in Time Edit convinced me that just about any piece I write could be improved if, when it was supposedly ready to hand in, I looked in the mirror and said sternly to myself "Green fourteen" or "Green eight." And one of these days I'm going to begin doing that.
The best sentences orient us, like stars in the sky, like landmarks on a trail.
I hear sentences as I'm staring out the window, or chopping vegetables, or waiting on a subway platform alone. They are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, handed to me in no particular order, with no discernible logic. I only sense that they are part of the thing.
Quotes are the actual fabric with which the mind weaves: internalizing them, but also turning them inside out, quarreling with them, adding to them, wandering through their architecture as if a single sentence were an expansible labyrinthine space.
At a certain point, in a necessary act of appropriation, you make it part of who you are, whether or not you ever quote it to anyone but yourself. Culture then is not a wall "over there" but the very tiles out of which your own thoughts are constructed.
Oh! I feel it. I feel the cosmos!