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Separating the good stuff from the stuff that isn’t needed is the hardest task in the creative process, but editing makes things better. Therefore I will try to make this a concise and brief blog.

Ernest Hemingway said “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.”


Greening is what editing is often called when writing for a publication called. This phrase originated when editors used a green marker to indicated what copy needed to be cut to fit a column length. It took young writers a while to get used to having to have their beautiful words chopped out of their prose. John McPhee wrote about his experiences with the New Yorker magazine. Here are some of his thoughts.

Choosing what to leave out.

By John McPhee

“Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market-research your writing. Write on subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.”



Modeling in clay is mostly editing. Sometimes clay is added and then taken away. Sculpting in wood or stone is trickier in that all the editing decisions are final.

Michelangelo: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I’m just taking away what doesn’t belong there.”

One of the hardest tasks a musician, writer or artist has is to edit their ideas, feelings and discoveries. Sometimes this means you have to throw out some beautiful stuff in order to simplify and make your message more easily understood. We can be arrogant souls who believe all our experiences and ideas are important. We go on and on trying to prove  just how interesting we can be. Unfortunately this approach sometimes only shows just how boring we can be. We  can also have an idea that  is strong enough to stand on its own, but gets in the way of telling the story.

Shedding some stuff  will ask your listener or reader to fill in the blanks and will get them more involved. The longer an artist works at his/her craft the better they are at editing.

The great John Singer Sargent would wipe whole canvases away and then start over, away would go all the terrific stuff that was inappropriate to his subject. I would like to someday find his discarded pieces.


I am aware of the art of editing, especially when I hear a master of the piano like Charles Boles play a ballad. When I paint I sometimes get too close to the  canvas and create a great bit of painting but it is out of scale, and out it goes.

In Provence nature and man have seemingly combined to eliminate the ugly and include only things that are sublimely beautiful.


When I spend time in Provence I am barraged by exceptional images. This is a place where hundreds of memorable moments are thrown at you every day. It is a dry climate with a steady stream of cool air that is funneled down through the Rhone valley by the Mistral winds coming from the Alps. When you step out of the sun and into the shade, you feel this cool breeze. There are hills and mountains and flat fields of vines and crops. Villages sit atop high places and cling to sides of cliffs. They perch defiantly against the march of time and tourists.


Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity”.

In 1959 Miles Davis put together what is often considered one of the most influential albums ever recorded. Miles Davis did a pretty simple thing when he gathered his band members to record the world’s best selling jazz album, Kind of Blue.

He passed out pieces of paper with a minimum of information. He gave them an outline of each song without the chords spelled out. His goal was to edit out anything that stood in the way of this collection of artists to improvise. He was striving to get the music to its purest state. His pianist Bill Evans described Miles Davis’s schemes “exquisite in their simplicity”. Miles said he wanted  “fewer chords but infinite possibilities as to what to do with them.”  Miles got his way, we got a brilliantly edited album.and today’s jazz giants continue to build on this legacy. Miles Davis understood the power of simplicity.

“I always listen to what I can leave out”. Miles Davis

Many of the people in my life have shown me the benefit of editing both in their art and their lives. I have come to realize that editing is just another word for choosing.

I have watched jazz artists edit on the fly and as a group. This is a skill that I don’t have. I have the luxury to edit at a later date once I realize how much unnecessary stuff I have cluttering my canvas.  Maybe I am going on a little long about this.

John Osler


June13 – June16


Gene Dunlap will edit out everything except his personal thoughts, his power and his compelling spirit.

#DetroitJazzFestival #RodneyWhitaker #SeanDobbins #Jazz #CharlesBoles #Music #DetroitJazz #DwightAdams #DirtyDogJazzCafé #JudyAdams #JazzinDetroit #JAZZMUSIC #RalpheArmstrong #GretchenValade #musicDirtyDogJazzCafe

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