Thursday, July 5, 2007

Getting By With Less

I've been doing some freelance writing lately and the biggest challenge, besides trying to say something interesting and insightful, is meeting word counts. I have no problem generating copy. I've been known to write emails the length of whole magazines. If I were using a typewriter, I could spit out reams of paper that would cover the floor, all before breakfast (and the environment thanks me for using a laptop). What can I say, I'm a verbose motherfucker. So the hard part is not coming up with the words, but trying to use less of them to say the same thing. Lately it's been music and film reviews that have to be between 300-400 words. Please understand, 300-400 words are an opening paragraph for me! But I've been getting the job done, staying within the limits, and I swear that I learn something new each time I have to lop off one of my sentences, even if it feels like its a limb I'm cutting and not a piece of verbal fat. I want to believe the pain is making me stronger.

In researching an article today, I came across this quote from Brian Eno about how he created the Microsoft Sound. I'm after his kind of minimalism in everything I do. Hopefully it won't be too long before I feel this way about words:

The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I'd been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, "Here's a specific problem – solve it." The thing from the agency said, "We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional," this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said "and it must be 3¼ seconds long." I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It's like making a tiny little jewel. In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I'd finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.