on writing – a rest before publishing

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I haven’t written for several days as I take baby steps building a website. Whilst checking that the tabs work, I happened to read something I recently published. I discovered an analogy so comprehensively tortured it had been mangled. How had I managed to write it?

I’ve given this oversight some thought and I think it came about at the end of several days’ interminable tweaking to the post whereby I focussed on the grammar, structure and individual detail but not what the sum of their parts was actually up to. Each component was intact, but when turned on, the machine sodomised itself.

There’s just enough ambiguity in those last sentences to avoid a mixed metaphor.

At the time of writing the original post, I was being careful to avoid cliché. By swerving to avoid a collision, it’s possible to drive into another car. That sentence sums up the point I’m making quite well, it’s just not very imaginative. In fact, if you stand in that sentence, you can just about make out cliché in the distance.

Several days’ break from the post allows me to read it anew and that cataclysm couldn’t be more clear – it’s the whorl at the centre of a spiral that devours the rest of the text.

Our modern ability to cut and paste also harbours potential risks: the care you took to avoid the repetition of words can be scotched as the top line of one paragraph grinds with a crepitus against the bottom line of the one above it – they didn’t used to border each other but now, like countries, there’s a skirmish.

A notion tailing the end of one section can also bend the meaning of another at the start of the next; they’re touching each other now and contaminating each others’ previously isolated ideas. They used to dwell in different parts of the landscape but now you’ve unwittingly made them interact as neighbours.

When you’re constantly on your own writing, you’re too plugged into it. You actually need repose to unplug so you can see it more as the reader than the author. Even though you subject the text to multiple read-throughs, I believe you become like an orator rushing through rote passages and only concentrating on the recent edits. After a few days’ absence, you get to hear like the audience again.

Best is to actually work on another post completely and get intimate with that. When you’re close to completing, go back to the previous post instead. Give it the once over and the errors will stand out like the last glowing embers in a hearth.

I like learning as I go on and several days were taken before I pressed the publish button for this post. I made quite a few edits! If you can (but often you can’t), give yourself this break to actually read the words as if for the first time.

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