July 17, 2013

Recognizing the Trade-Off, Part One

Posted in music and writing, Revising tagged , , at 3:12 pm by Rebecca Hein

Often writers fiddle too long with their sentences, trying to purge them of mistakes or no-nos such as misused commas or too many adverbs. But this doesn’t always work.

Sooner or later, you notice that in improving one part of a sentence or paragraph, you create a problem somewhere else. Thus you trade one difficulty for another, and sometimes just have to decide between the two. If you don’t accept this reality, you end up with the feeling that you’re trying too hold too many ping-pong balls underwater.

One is always popping up, no matter what you do. The answer is not to grab at that one pesky ball and try to push it under again, but to work with the reality of the process.

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 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.