Monday, May 3, 2010

Concerning Nutrients

Commandeering the text is all too common in the editing process; the intent of the author too often betrayed by the intent of the reader. Despite good intentions, we all have an agenda, a perspective, a bias, and if we aren't careful it looms darkly like a great grey cloud over a beautiful rolling idea. I too am guilty of casting this shadow. My efforts at altruistic editing in the past have been colored by my own will to inflict perfect syntax and grammar on the world. How can I change this habit?
Understanding that the real point of editing is not actually to edit, to change, or to transform, but to inspire and contribute in a non-intrusive manner is vital. It's a delicate matter, achieving the balance between bias and cultivation. The beautiful thing about it is, it's a lot like cultivating vegetables, you merely water and provide nutrients. Though, in the case of cultivating a creative process, the water and nutrients are replaced by ideas, suggestions, new insights, different perspectives.
Letting things grow organically in a creative process is difficult sometimes. Like when you were young, and you planted a seed in a small terra cotta pot, your efforts at willing it to germinate on the sunny windowsill with only your eyes and encouraging words were futile, it would happen in due time, and hopefully you would become distracted at some point along the way, lest you wished to stare at potting soil for days on end. You have to remove yourself from the process as much as humanly possible. This can be achieved by listening, rather than waiting to speak, hearing the concerns and intentions of the author, acknowledging them, connecting with them, understanding them.
This is not an easy assignment, to detach your opinions and wants from the process. The author often knows the solutions they are looking for when they sit down, they just need to consciously recognize them. But sometimes something novel can be contributed, something unexpected yet strangely destined. This novel idea should not betray the intent of the writer, but compliment it. Relate to the writer, get to know them a little, understand their perspective, if only from the narrow area that makes up the soles of your shoes. Don't miser-ate watching the ideas sprout, enjoy the fleeting period of mindful growth.
If you like, think of the work as a living thing, a plant? The water, sunlight, and nutrients in the soil are ideas and experiences, little pieces of knowledge that fit the form of the work perfectly. The seed is planted; the assignment is given, the notion to create is pursued. The soil consists of the author's perspective. Water and sunlight serve to nourish the seed; ideas feed into the work. Watch it grow in passing, it will happen naturally, just water, and expose to light, as the seed will not grow in darkness, the work will not grow alone and isolated from outside perspectives, it will remain static. Words are like all growing things, they need to see the light, they need to be fed a healthy diet of ideas and experiences, or they will wilt into insignificance, if only in the mind of the writer.
How can the reader avoid being the dark gray cloud that keeps the sun from the work? How can the writer bring the work into the light of day without fear of judgment? That is our struggle. We must read mindfully, in the moment, nonjudgmentally. We must be conscious of our bias, in order to keep it from overshadowing the intentions of the work. We must remember to become distracted enough to allow the work to grow. We must work to cultivate consciousness.

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