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THE CREATIVE PROCESS – EDITING

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Modeling in clay adding and taking away

THE DREADED EDIT

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

Editing your work 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. 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. The great John Singer Sargent wiped whole canvases away and started over, and he never painted anything bad.  Away would go all the terrific stuff that was inappropriate to his subject. I would like to someday find his discarded pieces.

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HILLSIDE /JOHN OSLER

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

Greening is what editing when writing for publication is often called. This phrase originated when editors used a green marker to indicated what copy needed to be cut to fit the column length. It took young writers a while to get used to having to having 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.”

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.”


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PROVENCE

I am still in Provence, France where we are 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.

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

I have come to paint to the same villages for over 25 years and have become friends with some truly remarkable people. 

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 aother word for choosing.

CHOOSING

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Ernst Sillem, a Dutchman and a friend to us in France has lived in his words, “an amusing life”. 

Ernst will soon turn 94 years old and still lives a vigorous and independent life. He has a glint in his eye and pep in his stride. His life has not been easy and in his positive nature we can learn some lessons in life. 

Ernst learned the skill of editing while being held a prisoner in German work camps throughout World War II. Ernst was saved from dying along with all the occupants of Dachau as the scheduled slaughtering of the prisoners was interrupted by the early arrival of American troops. He is a rare case of someone surviving the whole war despite being overworked and underfed in these hideous camps. He has many stories of grit and some good luck. His survival and subsequent life were a product of mind over matter. 


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In prison Ernst learned to edit. He learned to put yesterday out of his mind in order to have the strength to face the day ahead of him. This was a skill that he would need in his life that took him to pioneer new agricultural techniques in Morocco and a rabbit farm in France. His ” good head” would help him cope with the loss of three wives, a son and many friends. Each day he wakes with good cheer and adventure in his heart. What a gift. What power good editing can have.

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 included.  Maybe I am going on a little long about this.

John Osler

COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ

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DAVID McMURRAY

Dave McMurray edits everything out except his personal thoughts, his power and his compelling spirit. Detroit knows David and Detroit know jazz.



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