I was reading articles from a recent issue of The New Yorker and came across Eight Short Science-Fiction Stories (including the Penis from Venus) by Paul Simms and Omission, choosing what to leave out by John McPhee. In my tangled, warped mind, I combined them into a stream of conscientiousness (or, in my case, a swamp of conscientiousness) about writing and blogging. McPhee is a favorite author of mine: I have enjoyed Assembling California, Basin and Range and The Curve of Binding Energy, among others. McPhee has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1965, has published twenty-eight books and teaches a course in Creative Non-fiction.
McPhee emphasized that “creative non-fiction is not making something up but making the most of what you have.” On occasion, an article has to be shortened in order to fit the available space but most of the time any post, article, short story or novel can use judicial editing to improve the work. Editors, a sadly neglected and all but abandoned lot, would agree. McPhee stressed his point by using the analogy of Michelangelo as a sculptor “with six tons of Carrera marble, a mallet, a point chisel [and other tools]: ‘I’m just taking away what doesn’t belong there.’” So prose writing is as much about what is NOT written as what is.
It got me to thinking, what should I leave out of any of my posts when blogging?
- The penis from Venus – Yes, but then I would not have gotten your attention.
- The dream where I was dancing nude at my school reunion – Definitely.
- Any health issue that involves the description of one or more orifices – Most definitely.
- How to build a thermonuclear bomb from six common items found in most kitchens – Not a good idea.
- Using hot lead enemas as a means of corporal punishment – Um, yes.
- A discussion of the effect of 2,4,6 acetyl dichlorobenzene on the anechoic chamber of the rat – Yes.
- My Congressional Medal of Honor, my Nobel Peace Prize and my Pulitzer – Oh, wait, it’s creative NON-fiction.
- The moaning sounds and the God-awful smells that emanated from a dumpster near 43rd Street the last time I visited New York City – Maybe.
- Alien anal probing and sex with animals – See the penis from Venus, above.
- OOGA horns – No, there is always room for OOGA horns. http://www.ahooga.com/ahooga_wav.shtml
McPhee also quoted Hemingway saying “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.” With that thought in mind, here are the other items to omit “as though I had stated them:”
Did you cover all of them for me?
Oh, and what does any of this have to do with Eight Short Science-Fiction Stories? That’s where the swamp of conscientiousness comes in.
Yet as an artist with paint, Michelangelo added color to what needed to be.
Unlike a lot of us (me), he added ONLY what was needed.
Regarding the Penis From Venus, at least you wrote omissions … not emissions. In terms of your 10 bullets about what to leave out of posts, I expect those to the the themes of your next 10 posts.
Yessir! I emit, therefore I am.
Thanks. 🙂 An enjoyable post.
Thanks to Mr. McPhee, who always inspires.
A comprehensive list – I think you pretty well covered everything in those last few points. Carry on…
Although I may have missed , , and .
Any degree of omitting the travesty called Trump is ok with me. Please.
I really like the ‘making the most of what you have’ reflection. Think that summarises blogging (to which I’m fairly new!) very well. Slowly discovering the joys, addictive tendencies and attractions it offers. But I’m staying away from the P from V, as you say, some things you leave off 🙂
Blogging may be a better addiction than most.
Thanks for the writing tips. I will sure the future to omit that doesn’t belong.
…which may include my posts.
Great post, Curm!
I too have become a fan of the New Yorker, just in the past year or so. It’s quality writing and the cartoons are the spice.
I was going to suggest for your list of omissions from posting any mention of Donald Trump. But never mind. The Donald is like greenhouse gas, infiltrating every crevice of the universe. He’s like a train wreck you can’t take your eyes off of. Sigh.
Donald Trump as greenhouse gas = something to omit.