The older I get, the more I try to learn the art of leaving stuff to one side. It’s a life skill, all right. And it’s hard. And it’s easy to get wrong. Bruising of various shades of tenderness can ensue. Just like when knapping.
"Knapping is the shaping of flint, chert, obsidian or other conchoidal fracturing stone through the process of lithic reduction." *
On the way to making a really excellent axe, the knapper has to delete a lot of material. Skilful bashing produces flakes of varying sizes, from quite substantial, useful for cutting meat or hide, down to those small and slender enough to make into needles and bores. But, inevitably, there will also be flakes that are useless. We find them centuries later, cast away in middens and slag heaps. (Though we can deduce from them that knapping activities took place in the vicinity so, given time and the invention of archaeology, eventually they do have a use.)
As it is with life, and with knapping, so it is, I’m finding more and more, with editing. The last two books I wrote both stalled near the finish line, for the simple reason that there were things in them that didn’t belong. Just dancing around making elegant joining-up bits wasn’t enough. I had to get out my hammer and get lithic-ly reductive. The potentially-excellent axe was in there – you just couldn’t see it for all the extraneous flint.
Why is editing so hard? I don't meant technically hard, so much as knocking off bits of your own flesh hard. (Not that that's something I do all that much, but you know what I mean.) Is it arrogance? Short-sightedness? Being just plain bloody-minded?
Whatever the reason, here's to getting better at bashing -
Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.
* Thank you, Wikipedia. Phrases like "conchoidal fracturing" and “the process of lithic reduction” just don’t get used as much as they should, I feel.