What to leave out: The key to creativity
I highly recommend long reading. Not least because of the lovely knowledge that unfurls from it. I also think that committing to a long read narrows, focuses, hones and gets you still. It’s the antidote to the frazzle of short-form toggling.
It’s a Sunday afternoon thing for me, to read all the lengthy prose I’ve collated during the week from the The New Yorker, Atlantic, The New York Times, The Monthly and The Quarterly Essay. I “flag for follow up” or email links and tweets to myself during the week. And then open them all at once and dive in. (Out of interest, how do you go about it, if indeed you do?)
All of which is a funny preamble to today’s good quote share that I pulled from The New Yorker long writer John McPhee’s essay on omission which, ironically goes on…and on (worth a long read!). It’s an Ernest Hemingway quote:
“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.
The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”
If you’re a writer, take note of this trick – cutting out stuff that you can gamble your reader will get, or will challenge them to engage further in your writing, will not only free you up, but will lend your work a certain elan.
“If you see yourself prancing around between subject and reader, get lost,” continues McPhee. “Give elbow room to the creative reader. In other words, to the extent that this is all about you, leave that out… Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg.”
As a general rule, trimming, streamlining, minimising works best for most creative projects. That’s not to say it has to be short…just elegant and deposited on the page without clutter.
As I flag above, share with me how you go about long reading!