Tuesday, February 03, 2009

one minute it's up, the next it's down

I spent a great deal of the day trying to write my next article for BC Musician magazine, and all that came out was wordy, boring, pretentious crap. Plus I couldn't think of any of the right words.

A couple of hours after I gave up, I printed off what I had written, sat down in a different place, and reread it. And realised it was actually pretty decent. A few tweaks here and there and it will be passable.

What just happened? Did my standards suddenly plummet? Or am I just being delusional now?

Do you find that sometimes things read better on paper than they do on the computer screen?


Allison said...

Always. Always.

I cannot read anything that I write properly on the screen. I need to see it in my hands, and edit with my pencil.

Glad your article turned out better than you expected! :)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I have the worst writers block and come out with complete crap. Then, later, I'll be running or spinning and something brilliant will come to me, but by then it's too late.
It's usually those times when people are like "yeah, I know just what you mean."

Yeah, no idea.

mister anchovy said...

Also, sometimes it's easy to lose perspective on something you're very close to. As a painter, when I'm working on a piece, sometimes I'll leave the studio and go for a long walk, then come back and take a fresh look. Or, sometimes I'll turn it upside down and only look at it that way for a while, or I'll block half of it off with a piece of paper. All these strategies I use to force myself to find perspective. Some painters even have mirrors in their studios and look at their images through a mirror, to counter the force of direction.

And then there are those rare times when I can do no wrong in the studio and I feel as if I could make a dozen paintings that day, and all would be fine. Rare indeed.

A while back I saw an Arlo Guthrie show. He talked about how song writing was like fishing. You throw out the bait and if you're in the right place at the right time and a good song comes along, you can catch it. He explained that he wrote a letter to this effect to his friend Bob Dylan, which he ended by asking Bob if he might throw the little ones back.

S.M. Elliott said...

Things always look better on paper! Once you get away from the eyestrain and stress of sitting at a PC, it all comes into perspective. If it was bad, you'd know it.

Evelyne said...

Things do read better on paper and it's even sort of easier to be writing on paper than to be typing them. It's why now I write outlines using a pencil and paper. But I've never understood why it is the case. Different perspective?

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

You were trying to hard to force things. Just let it flow.

Karen's Mouth said...

Yep. Had a big drive to read everything on screen using PDFs in order to save the world. My brain just did not work in the same way. Gave in and resumed printing it all. It must be done.

Remi said...

I read stories I've written, even the ones I know to be good, and still have days when they seem like so much, um, natural fertilizer. It just happens.

It's still far better than the alternative. I'd hate to think that everything I wrote was a masterpiece or even worthy. That's when you know you're internal editor is in need of a reboot. . . And booting your internal editor kind of hurts.

BeckEye said...

Oh my God, I miss Calvin and Hobbes so much. An impenetrable fog is how I like to think of my blog. Especially for people like you who don't watch American Idol.

What I find odd is when I write something that I think is great and no one else really cares, and then I write something that I think is complete shit and everyone loves it. I guess we really are our own worst critics...and biggest fans. If that makes sense.

Joe said...

Yes! Without a doubt.

Not only that, but I think it's usually a good idea to walk away from it for a while, and look later. I've been doing a writing exercise where I sit down and write like crazy for a half hour or so, then get up and stop. I don't look again for 24 hours.

Will said...

You know, I used to never write beyond a first draft. I had a teacher who said "the first draft feels the most exciting, but its not the best written." With subsequent drafts, the paper gets better but it feels less fresh. Sometimes I think our opinion of our own writing is affected by external factors. This seems to happen to me all the time. Part of blogging is learning to live with something that you've put out there - I guess it also means to be sure about what you put out there.

Gifted Typist said...

Ah, the civil war between the writer and the internal editor. You have to keep the editor out of the room while you write and just after.

Rodin used to say the sculpture was there and all he did was take away some of the stone to get to it.

My motto is that I start with a dictionary and take away words until I end up with the thing I want to say.

John Mutford said...

I don't know if I agree that things look better on paper. I just think seeing the words in any different format enables us to see it differently. I sometimes start on paper, and am only able to edit it when I put it up on the screen. And sometimes the reverse is true. Our brains are so fickle. And tasty. Sorry, now I'm pandering to the zombies.

(Heh, my word verification is "dingstop" which is what I imagine was the name typewriters used to make at the end of a line. Appropriate, n'est pas?)

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It's funny the tools we need, Al. Back in the day, I could only write in pencil, now I need a keyboard. But editing, yes, that's different.

Obviously your complete crap is other people's brilliance, Justrun!

I love the idea of throwing the little ones back, Mr Anchovy! I believe you are right losing the perspective, and I like a lot of those techniques you use with your painting. I often find taking a break for exercise helps my befuddled brain, but it's hard to convince myself to stop sometimes.

Yeah, if it's really horrid on the screen, that should remain on paper, I guess, SME.

Maybe it's because we know if it's in pencil, it's a draft, Evelyne, while on the screen, it seems more permanent and we want to keep it the way it stands.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You are quite right, Dr M, but with an encroaching deadline, it's tough to do.

Oh especially neuroscience papers, Kees! Those will just murder you on screen!

True, Remi, we need to write crap occasionally to appreciate the good stuff. We must embrace our inner editor!

Only you could make a post about American Idol interesting, Beckeye. That makes me your second biggest fan.

Just flow of consciousness writing, Bubs? This is fascinating. Do you do anything with your writing afterward?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I never used to write drafts, Will,and I guess I still don't really, although I will tweak words and sentence structure here and there.

hahaha I hear you, Gifted, I am forever taking away extraneous words too. Rodin's comment reminds me somewhat of the comment that Robert Downey Jr's character made in Zodiac - "It's written, I just have to type it."

I love "dingstop", John! You should submit it to the OED. Hopefully shaking things up will strengthen our brains for writing. I had a prof make us write in a strange place once, just to prove that you can write anywhere.