Reductive Editing

This year one of my goals is to improve my writing skills, and one of the ways I’m working towards that goal is to make sure I write something every day.

January was not terribly successful, but February has been a lot better. Initially I was having a lot of trouble getting started, though that has been mitigated by my efforts to consistently write something every day, even if what I start remains incomplete. Having something already on the screen when I sit down to write every day makes getting started a lot easier than it would be just starting at a blank page.

As a part of my daily writing practice, I naturally also find myself editing along the way. My default approach to editing at this point is reductive rather than additive, which I think is a good thing. This reductive tendency I have recently noticed when editing my own writing is also one that I have actively worked to strengthen and reinforce in other activities and work I do, such as programming, writing and recording music.

In 2012 I had half a dozen half-finished songs that had remained untouched in Logic Pro for almost two years. During that summer I tried revisiting those songs trying to grasp at whatever it felt was missing from them. At a certain point, out of frustration more than anything, I ended up muting everything except for the guitars and the vocals. I had been listening to those songs for so long with all the instrumentation built up around them that I had forgotten when they sounded like when I was originally writing them on an acoustic guitar.

Stripping everything down helped me gain another perspective the songs; I stopped thinking about what was missing and started thinking about what was superfluous. I was having such a hard time finishing the recording of those songs because the songs themselves had structural problems that hadn’t been properly addressed.

Too often however, I find that my approach to problem solving in various areas is overly additive and could benefit from being more reductive. A significant piece in the puzzle of my ongoing personal development remains the decoupling of learnings and heuristics from the specific domains in which I was first exposed to them and utilising them in a domain-independent way across the greater breadth of activities and areas that I engage in.