March 22, 2012
Conservation of Movement

There’s a saying in surgery. Well, there’s a lot of sayings in surgery: eat when you can, sleep when you can, don’t mess with the pancreas; the enemy of good is better, etc. But this one is more of a theory. No movement should be wasted. Every flick of the wrist and pass of a suture should be like a dance: purposeful, choreographed, graceful.

The same can be said of a novel. Writing well is the arduous task of saying what you mean in the fewest words possible. Brevity is the soul of wit and all that (word up, Shakespeare). Editing again and again until all the chaff is cut away and something fresh and true remains. The delete key as literary equivalent of a weed-whacker.

And at some point, the thing will be done. That’s where surgery and writing diverge: your writing can always be better, and striving to make it so won’t lead to hemorrhaging.