Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on a piece for our friends over at Paradigm magazine. Since the last article I did for them on the agony and the ecstasy of raising chickens went over so well, I’m taking another turn at writing about life on the farm. I do this for a few magazines, but what I like about what Paradigm offers is the chance to talk about life on the urban homestead with a literary voice. I could write a how-to on slaughtering chickens or tending a bee hive. But when I can tell a story about it and capture that raw, primordial emotion you feel when slicing a chickens neck or holding a swarm of bees in your hand is what keeps me wanting to write. It’s what keeps The Head & The Hand wanting to find writers who can capture the same moments.
But I must admit that my article is a little over due. Not just because I’ve been a little busy with family life as of late (I think getting married takes some precedence), but because to dig into the literature of a moment so physical takes a certain rhythm that can only be executed through time. As I’ve been writing this new article, I’ll find myself write a line, listen to how it sounds, erase it and write it again until I’m happy with the cadence. It’s like writing a piece of music and taking out notes, adding new ones. With words you can do the same thing.
As it also is in journalism, there is the art of connecting. When doing this kind of writing, I still have to write in pieces, taking certain sections and finding the connections that lead into other thoughts, like how the hallway of a house leads to other rooms. Ask an architect or carpenter how important a good hallway is and they’ll probably tell you that a poorly laid out hallway that disconnects the rooms and confines the space can ruin a house. It’s all about flow, and letting your reader flow into the next thought is important.
But within those thoughts it’s all about rhythm. Sometimes it can take on a musical quality, almost like poetry. But most times it’s much more subtle. I once heard a journalist say that it’s impossible to avoid bias in reporting because a story has so many details and that it’s the writer’s choice of what details she wants to reveal. And so it goes for the story I’m writing. What details, what parts of the story, what thoughts of mine do I want to tell the reader? As I learned from writing a novel, you can never get it perfect, not with the countless possibilities of how you can frame a thought, or what thought you want to reveal. Seeds of Discent could have been fifty different books.
But a good rhythm allows you to keep writing and to keep testing out words, collecting and shedding them until what is on the paper is as reflective as you want it to be. A mistake I made in my youth was thinking the first thing I wrote was what was going to go out to the world. There’s nothing worse in my opinion than untested thoughts. But as I’ve gained more of a respect and reverence for the editing process, I am also conscious that when you lack a good rhythm you let the editing overtake the creativity and then you’re voice is sterile and calculated. By keeping my words moving, testing out a few different ways to say the same sentence when it’s warranted, that’s a rhythm I can keep up with. And I hope it’s a rhythm that gets this article done soon. So keep a look out for it.