Monday, June 19, 2017

On revision

For this week's prompts, I'd like to share some wisdom from a book I'm working through at the moment: Naming the World, and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer, edited by Bret Anthony Johnston. It's an edited volume, with many different writers and writing instructors contributing writing prompts and exercises.

We've mostly been talking about generating new ideas, making sense of tough concepts, and the like. This week I'd like to focus on revision. I've always said that I hate revision, but I think I haven't had great tools for it until now. I'd love to start a discussion with folks about what, precisely, you do when you revise.

For now, here are some ideas from John Smolens's chapter, on shortening a piece while you revise:
Be ruthless with the usual suspects, adjectives and adverbs; retain only those that are truly necessary, those that so dramatically alter the noun or verb they are modifying that the sentence would be significantly different without them.
Take one paragraph and distill it until you've said the same thing in one sentence. 
 Combine sentences (in particular, by using subordination which often allows connecting words and entire phrases to be dropped).
 Employ the active voice as much as possible. (pp. 303-304)
 If you use writing as a way to figure out what you think, as I do, then inevitably your first draft (and potentially many drafts after that one!) has a lot of extraneous material. It can be a great idea to shorten while you revise.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Draw Your Theory

This week's video gives some examples of drawings that I made to try to understand the distinctions between two different theories of disability. I show how you can use drawings to illustrate, understand, and explain a given theory, by thinking about a theory as a story, involving certain characters and objects, processes and relationships.

I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

First drafts

I just finished reading The Clockwork Muse by Eviatar Zerubavel, and found a quote about first drafts inspiring. Dr. Zerubavel is quoting writer Mario Vargas Llosa:
"the first version is written in a real state of anxiety. Then once I've finished that draft... everything changes. I know then that the story is there, buried in what I call my 'magma.' It's absolute chaos but the novel is in there, lost in a mass of dead elements, superfluous scenes that will disappear... It's very chaotic and makes sense only to me. But the story is born under there." (quoted from "The Art of Fiction--Mario Vargas Llosa," The Paris Review 116 (1990): 57, in Zerubavel's The Clockwork Muse, p. 51)
I don't know about you, but I as I write first drafts of academic or creative writing, I have to constantly remind myself that I don't know how it will end up, and it's ok to just keep going. I made this drawing (and took this incredibly low quality photo in the middle of the night) to remind myself of my job as a writer:

 Your Job Is To Make A Mess, brought to you by a snake, an elephant, a bunny, a dog/deer hybrid, a mouse, a whale, and a cat. And me.

Monday, June 5, 2017

How is ___ like ___?

This week's video uses some techniques from Lynda Barry (author of Syllabus and many other amazing books) and Ebony Flowers, developed and shared in their workshops and courses called DrawBridge, to link academic writing with creative writing and image-making. Their stuff has been adapted by Thelma Akyea, at the University of Toronto.
This technique is great when you're near the beginning stages of writing something, and come across a tough concept that you have to explain. Let me know how it goes!