“Take things away until you cry.”more info
source: “What Advice Would You Give a Graphic Design Student?,” Frank Chimero’s blog, August 20, 2010.
“Read a wonderful definition by Henry James (senior) of what true progress is. Progress is a process like the modeling and carving of a statue from a block of marble, the elimination of all that is superfluous. The marble, the material, is nothing. The important thing is the carving, the trimming off of the superfluous.”more info
source: March 9, 1891 entry, in Tolstoy’s Diaries: Volume 1 1847-1894. Selected, ed., and trans. by R. F. Christian (London: Faber and Faber, 2010), 304.
“A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit—to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort—that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.”more info
source: “Best New Year’s Resolution? A ‘Stop Doing’ List,” USA Today, December 30, 2003.
medium: newspaper article
“I’m so used to writing with a pincushion that I don’t know if I can learn other ways or not, but I did go right down and buy a bottle of Carter’s [rubber cement]. The smell stimulates the mind and brings up dreams of efficiency. Long ago when my stories were short (I wish they were back) I used to use ordinary paste and put the story together in one long strip, that could be seen as a whole and at a glance—helpful and realistic. When the stories got too long for the room I took them up on the bed or table & pinned and that’s when my worst stories were like patchwork quilts, you could almost read them in any direction…. The Ponder Heart [novella originally published in the New Yorker in 1953] was in straight pins, hat pins, corsage pins, and needles, and when I got through typing it out I had more pins than I started with. (So it’s economical.)”more info
source: letter to William Maxwell, September 10, 1953, in What There Is to Say We Have Said, ed. by Suzanne Mars (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2011), 41–42.
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“The order of pieces in a given book is mostly a matter of trying to make sure they don’t get in each other’s way. Much like hanging pictures for a show. Some pictures fight other pictures, not because either is a bad picture, but because the scale fights or the color fights.”more info
source: Interview with J. D. O’Hara (1981), in Not-Knowing: The Essays and Interviews (New York: Random House, 1997), 282–83.
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“Some people like to believe that being edited is a tense and acrimonious business but my experience of the process has always been quite the opposite. Carin Besser at the New Yorker encouraged me to let the stories be. Just be. A lot of the editing involved peeling away layers of personal anxiety, not in any therapeutic sense, but in the art—scraping off trace deposits left in the tone, removing lines of dialogue that were overly articulate, scorifying exposition that was false because it interfered.”more info
source: “Nam Le,” interviewed by Charles D’Ambrosio, BOMB magazine, Issue 108, Summer 2009.
“How much can one remove, and still have the composition be intelligible? Chekhov removed the plot. Pinter, elaborating, removed the history, the narration; Beckett, the characterization. We hear it anyway.”more info
source: “Writers on Writing; Hearing The Notes That Aren’t Played,” The New York Times, July 15, 2002.
medium: Newspaper Essay
“Life is selection, no more. The work of the gardener is simply to destroy this weed, or that shrub, or that tree, & leave this other to grow. The library is gradually made inestimable by taking out from the superabounding mass of books all but the best. The palace is a selection of materials; it’s architecture, a selection of the best effects. Things collect very fast of themselves; the difference between house & house is the wise omissions.”more info
source: May–June 1846, Emerson in His Journals, selected and edited by Joel Porte (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), 357.
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“Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.”more info
source: “Ira Glass on Storytelling 2,” YouTube
“I write the way I shave, going over and over the same territory, cutting, scraping, smoothing—and forever finding rough spots right under my nose.”more info
source: “Aphorisms by Felix Pollak” (Appendix D), in Arrows of Longing (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1998), 227.
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“You know that the very act of retyping will involve you in thirty or forty little improvements per page. If you don’t retype, you are denying that page those improvements.”more info