How to be an Editor.

28 Feb

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/magazine/03Braille-t.html

The act of writing, Ong said — the ability to revisit your ideas and, in the process, refine them — transformed the shape of thought. The Brents characterized the writing of many audio-only readers as disorganized, “as if all of their ideas are crammed into a container, shaken and thrown randomly onto a sheet of paper like dice onto a table.” The beginnings and endings of sentences seem arbitrary, one thought emerging in the midst of another with a kind of breathless energy. The authors concluded, “It just doesn’t seem to reflect the qualities of organized sequence and complex thought that we value in a literate society.”

The above article concerns the decline of Braille usage, which has led to increasing numbers of blind people  who can speak English but are functionally illiterate. This passage struck me as one worth putting in big letters. I’ll try to avoid this behaviour most of the time, but it made me think about what being a writer (god, I don’t even like typing that) does to your brain- apart from the poverty and alcoholism.

While some writers have the benefit of a professional editor for publication , all writers have to at some point edit their own work on a small, day-to-day level. Writers (and I know this is a generalization) also tend to choose their words carefully, they value a well-turned phrase. There is a constant gear turning, from small matters like how to best describe the weather to the big stuff like your own life story.

I’m starting to wonder why writers often don’t come across as entirely sane, that at some point the little edits become big edits and one day your whole life is just a tale you’ve rehearsed, no more or less true or interesting than Hemingway or Doctor Seuss. Take this for example.

The above trailer looks pretty damn bad, but I’m not putting it here for its quality . About 18 months ago I wrote a one-act play about two people who work in the dead-letter office who open, and then reply to, letters children have written from God. The only proof I can provide of this is the original script, as I was never happy with the ending and have yet to put it up for performance. It was disappointing to see this trailer, as it means that in the far-off magic land where I’m worth a damn and The Gospel of Ted gets performed, somebody could claim that I ripped off Letters From God – which, future society, I did not.

It’s a reasonable guess that Letters From God ends with the leads getting married and everyone learning a lesson about the power of Christ while horrible Christian Rock plays in the background, mine, well, isn’t that nice. You could easily edit that trailer to make it a promotion for my play, but what’s interesting is that two works of fiction, with functionally the same premise but seen from a different perspective, could mean two totally different things. It’s all in how you edit.

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2 Responses to “How to be an Editor.”

  1. take a guess March 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

    how come no one comments on your blog, gumboot?

    my favourite thing about the letters to god trailer is ‘thematic content’. as if to say that, to maintain a g rating, a film must not contain ideas.

    • liamjordan March 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

      I don’t know man, I don’t think enough people read it. ‘Thematic Content’ is such a bizzare thing to have as a rating suggestion. I mean, being forced by the Government to rate the quantity of nudity in any given film is of massive benefit to the masturbator community, but ‘Thematic Content’? That’s so vague, and I guess implies that g rated films (or ones that are aimed specifically aimed at children) aren’t allowed to be *about* anything.

      And that seems unfair, there’s some pretty heady shit going on in “Up” or “The Incredibles”. Let alone “Animals of Farthing Wood”, that show was rough.

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