Simplify and Specify

People with scissors are different from those people without. Aside from the obvious fact that they possess said cutting implement and those without do not.

People with scissors are careful, measured people.

Measure twice, cut once coined by a possessor of scissors I’d suspect.

People with scissors would never run with them, that warning is reserved for those Without; who by some sort of trickery have acquired a pair of scissors from a With and, giddy with the thrill, cannot contain themselves.

If a Without asks to borrow a pair of scissors (because they wouldn’t need to if they had scissors would they?) they may be surprised at the barrage of questions they must answer before a pair is lent.

What are you using it for? Paper? Fabric?

How heavy is the material? Are you cutting denim or chiffon?

Because there is not one pair of scissors that can do all of those things. Each pair is specialised, reserved for that purpose. Paper scissors, fabric scissors, scissors for hair, scissors for threads, nail scissors.

People with scissors are focused on details, the specifics of the project.

They know what to cut.

They think about the cuts they make.

They are plagued by the potential a thing holds before it is cut and enthralled by the possibility of what it may become once it is cut.

This year, I think my mantra will be “Simplify and Specify.” Both my novel and my play have overly long and complicated set ups. There are parts that are vague simply because I haven’t made up my mind, or worse, because there is a hole in my research.

I’ve been itching to cut since re-reading my novel. Characters, chapters if they don’t serve the story they’ve got to go. I’m always nervous when I get this itch. Usually these are the bits that are charming, that made me fall in love with writing the damn thing in the first place. They are usually my best jokes, the elegant phrase but eventually I have to face up to the fact that they don’t advance the story, that they are a sort of boast on my part – “Woo! Look at how clever I am!”

On the other hand, I don’t want to be too hasty cutting things that grate when I may be better to fix them instead.

So I’ve given myself time to think, writing out each chapter on a card so I can muck around with my structure without actually mucking around with my structure (I need to make my magnet board!). Time to try on the changes, see how they fit.

So a few things have had a stay from the executioner…for now.

I have been thinking about the details that make a character as well. Is January an optimist or a pessimist? At first glance I thought she’d be a pessimist, but if she lives her life on credit surely that would make her an optimist.

Is January a cat person? She is surrounded by decidedly cat people – first up Alice who shows her devotion for her cat by having his picture printed on a special mug; and then Mae who shares her cottage with her cat, Cat. If January is not fond of cats (unthinkable from my point of view I usually add time to my journeys in case a cat crosses my path and I need to stop for a chat and a pat) then I can show her emotional change towards Mae and Alice by the way she treats their cats…

I have a horror story about a pair of scissors I had sharpened about ten years ago. It was when I was just beginning to amass my sewing stash, so the scissors in question were my only pair of scissors forcing me to use them on both heavy and light fabrics and *gasp!* the dreaded paper. Needless to say, they were a little blunt. I took them into a sharpening place and the man “sharpened” them – by grinding the wrong side of the blade. They could barely close let alone cut. They couldn’t run through tissue without tearing. I took them back and someone else sharpened them back to their previously dull condition and they have been relegated to paper ever since.

Is there a moral? Probably not. I would hazard a guess that he was a non-scissor person (or perhaps sharpening is not his vocation…) because if he had paid attention to detail he would have seen that the blades needed to be ground the other way. He would have thought about it, he would have taken care.

Perhaps I should hang those scissors up to remind me of that day – that carelessness can make something worse than where it started.


Filed under On being a Writer, The Graphologist's Apprentice

2 responses to “Simplify and Specify

  1. I love the underlying meanings I found in this post. Also. Simplicity is beautiful, I’ve found. Now if only it were simpler to achieve…

  2. Pingback: The heart of the matter « Tauken

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