I write this after reading Oscar Relentos’ piece ‘No such thing’ [link below] in which he explains how he often combs back over something he has written and rips it apart before letting anyone else read, to achieve something closer to perfect writing. I reflected on how I’m the opposite.
My un-perfect writing – I lay it out, bring together as many details as I can in that moment and then throw it out into the world (following a quick re-read to correct any glaring mistakes like typos, or just making it read a little better). Returning to a piece to make it ‘perfect’ is something I cannot do; if I try then it is a struggle that tends to fail, or the mental challenge feels too great. Of the times I have tried to do this then I think I would rip such a piece apart and re-write it based again on my feeling in that moment, perhaps dividing the piece up into some new topics, and then the process starts all over again.
There was a short piece I wrote many years ago that I wanted to build on. I printed it off; it was barely a page. I liked what the topic was about but I needed to build in some details and facts; there were far too many “some people say” and “some time ago”s, and I needed more specifics about who, when, and ultimately to answer the question why, which would go along to making the piece better, if not quite attaining that impossibility that is “perfect”. But alas, other than some pencilled notes down the margins of that printed page and a stack of books beside me in which I knew were many of the details I needed, my attempt failed – the piece is still unfinished – and plagues my mind until this day. And now, once again, in some weird sense, I have stripped it apart once more and written about it again, if extremely vaguely.
An analogy of this stripping apart and re-creating makes me think of decorating a room, or rather how we might have the desire to redecorate a room of our home, one that we decorated only a few years ago but feel we can do better, or just want it different now. We might brainstorm some ideas with colour swatches and fabrics, carpet samples and cut-outs from furniture catalogues. In this day I actually have a folder on my computer, for such home make-over ideas, images that inspire me or make me want “that”, rather than anything more tactile such as a physical ring-binder, which is somewhat restrictive where creative expansion is required.
How do you perfect a piece? It could be writing, or it could be a room in your home, or it could be a piece of music or a culinary delight; with food the ingredients are visual and tactile, and they smell too if you’re blessed with full use of that sense, but how would you brainstorm an idea for a piece of music? How could that be visual in order to aid your creativity? Apparently Einstein’s genius was in his ability to visualise his ideas and theories within his mind, and he baked quite a cake.
I like this idea that the potential contents for a piece of writing need to be spread out in the 3D world, not confined to the digital one, not even confined to a single sheet of paper – of course if I had the mental focus of Einstein then I could do all this within my mind, but I don’t, and I can’t. I’m now thinking how I can once again attempt to expand that short piece I once wrote, not specifically in terms of pages, because that will happen automatically, but in terms of my physical space; I could turn my small office-come-writing-room into “that piece”, I could create a wall of ideas, or a “wall of weird” if was Chloe from Smallville (the Investigation Wall in Flashforward is an inspiration too), I could once again bring all those books together, print off the necessary web pages of details I want to include, with pictures of things and places and people I want to quote, and see how all this might string together, between drawing pins, before finally bringing everything together into a final piece (or pieces) I am more happy with. Or at the least the pin-board that hangs on my wall could be less random for a time being.
Alas, that’s my morning idea while I sip my first cup of tea for today, intentions may well change by this afternoon, and I’m all out of pins and string.