Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Time, again, always time

While the baby sleeps, I have revised a story, worked on a poem, a film, an essay.

It's like collecting a big pile of wood chips - you start at the edges and pick up chip by chip. If you don't look at the centre, it gets smaller much more quickly.

Lately I'm also learning to edit in my head. This is hard, like trying to remember a dream, but it's good mental exercise, too, I think. Working the brain muscles, stops them going soft. I hope. So when I'm settling the baby to sleep or out walking, I can compose a piece of writing or edit it, ready to make the changes when I next find time.

Working while typing or staring at the words is faster, easier. But I wonder if working while you're looking at the inside of your head, your memory, your thoughts, also has advantages. The ideas seem to be slower to form and different in quality. Who was it that hated writing for the fact it made his disciples lazy thinkers? One of those old Greeks.



Edited to add: 

'...for this discovery of yours [writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.

Plato, putting words in the mouth of Socrates in Phaedrus

- and imagine what the internet is doing to our memories! 

8 comments:

Jo said...

And our ability to spell!

Nikki Magennis said...

Where? What? Did I do a booboo?!

Jo said...

No no, that wasn't a snarky remark! Just that there's so much non-spelling and rewriting of things and spellcheck and blah blah, I think actually sitting down and handwriting something or even just spelling is getting harder for people. My students all spell 'ludicrous', 'ludacris'. And I myself am losing the will to use capitals, I find.

Craig Sorensen said...

I over-capitalize. I have since I learned German in High School. (Yes, this is an example. I always capitalize high school, and DeDe always has to remind me it shouldn't be.)

I actually do some edits of my work in my head too, but usually I have to write the edited version down. I'm not terrific at it, but I tend think you're right, that the function works differently as a purely mental process...

Fulani said...

It often feels to me like if I'm not able to write stuff down I'm not thinking clearly. Most of my editing is done on the fly, though it's true I do sometimes find the back of my brain comes up with stuff - whether writing or editing - when I'm doing other things. Then I have to stop and write it down on whatever bit of paper is stuffed in my pocket... I don't know about the Greek philosophers, my approach seems to be the complete opposite. I don't know what I think unless I write it down, and once it's on paper or whatever I can look at it and assess whether I think it's OK

Nikki Magennis said...

Yes, Fulani, that's exactly what I would normally do. Pin the stuff down. Turn it into a thought seperate from my brain.

This way - well, I'm doing it out of necessity, not choice - has a different quality. It's certainly harder. I'm wondering whether it makes my thinking more rigorous.

Saskia Walker said...

That's me that is! I'm nodding away here because that's the way I work. Most of my days are spent doing other things in a zombie-like state while I write in my head. I won't begin typing until I have a bunch of words that I've chanted over numerous times, reorganised, and chanted again. It's just the way I have to do it, like that's where the writing happens. Of course getting it out of the brain and onto the page is the hardest part. ;)

Nikki Magennis said...

Really? How interesting, Saskia! I thought it was quite an uncommon way of working. That's reassuring that you do it too! I wonder if it helps to listen to the sound of the words, too - the way that reading something out loud sometimes helps with editing it.