August 15, 2012

Evaluating Your Own Work, Part Seven

Posted in Saturation, self-evaluation tagged , at 2:53 pm by Rebecca Hein

In cello practice, when I play through a piece to determine how close to performance level it is, I can usually get all the way through without the distractions that trouble me when reading through my writing.

What’s the difference? In music, I practice and play through a piece dozens or sometimes hundreds of times to prepare for a performance. In writing, I seldom read a piece that many times.

However, there’s no doubt that the more I do read one of my chapters or a larger section of my book, the less I’m bothered by details. When I do detect a minor error, I mark it and resume my read-through.

In this way I hone my writer’s listening skills, and because I’m “hearing” the bumps and rough spots, I’m also attuned to the details, so the saturation of reading the same piece many times is quite productive.

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April 6, 2011

Saturation, Part Four

Posted in Saturation tagged , , at 10:42 am by Rebecca Hein

We all know that stage in polishing when we’re tired of the piece and can feel it getting stale. It doesn’t last, but in order to find freshness in a project you’ve read or revised more times than you can count, you have to push on.

Eventually your attention will click into subconscious-noticing mode where you see all kinds of new possibilities. These are easy to implement because you’re so comfortable with the piece. You’ve worked on it so long that to go through it again is like flying, only now you have new and glorious plumage.

March 30, 2011

Saturation, Part Three

Posted in Saturation tagged , at 10:38 am by Rebecca Hein

In playing the same piece many times, or re-reading your own work with an eye to polishing it, or re-reading your favorite novel, boredom is inevitable. Then we quit, casting around for a more interesting story or piece of music.

But we should go on with what we were doing. Boredom is only a stage in the long process of acquiring deep familiarity with our work or someone else’s.

If we don’t push through that tedium, we won’t get past it and on into the enviable state where our work is effortless and we are so at home with it that it feels like flying.

March 23, 2011

Saturation, Part Two

Posted in Saturation tagged at 10:34 am by Rebecca Hein

I’ve re-read so many books so many times that in some cases I’ve lost count. The resulting familiarity with plot, setting, and character allows me to notice the subtleties of story construction.

For example, in telling any story, whether fiction or nonfiction, it’s important to prepare the reader for coming events. A line, phrase, or paragraph filling in some slight detail of character or setting can help you launch a scene later when you don’t want to encumber the action with too much information.

In my extensive re-reading I’ve noticed this technique over and over again. Having found it in the work of others, I can more easily add it to my own.

March 16, 2011

Saturation, Part One

Posted in Saturation tagged , , , , at 10:29 am by Rebecca Hein

Saturation occurs when a musician practices for a performance, polishing the music beyond perfection. This level of work so immerses you in your material that your attention sinks below the details of playing every note and phrase. Then you can notice deeper elements, and your performance reflects this unconscious ease.

It’s the same in writing. Lavishing all your ability on a piece; reading and revising it so many times that you don’t even have to think about it, will give that project and your whole writing output a gloss and polish you can achieve in no other way.