Friday, February 12, 2010

Editor's Tip - Try to Remember - Part 2

Here's part 2 of Barbara Ardinger's "Try to Remember" post.  (Part 1 was posted on 2/11/10)

What if it’s the middle of the night and you don’t want to sit up, turn on the light, find your glasses, find the pencil, and start writing? What if you’re going 75 mph on the freeway and really should not take your hands off the steering wheel? What if you’re typing along at 60 wpm and what’s flowing across your screen is brilliant—and suddenly someone knocks on your door? Or the phone rings and it’s someone selling carpet cleaning or asking for a donation to some political cause? If you’re focused on traffic or an important task, you can’t start writing in your notebook or typing on your electronic thingie. And it’s tacky not to answer the door or the phone.

Here’s the solution. Try to remember. More than that, learn to remember. Train your memory. Develop or practice some kind of mnemonic system that helps you remember what that 3 a.m. idea was or where the sentence ends that was interrupted when you had to get up to answer the door. This very thing just happened to me. I was a couple of paragraphs back, and a neighbor came to ask about cat food for the feral cats we feed in the parking lot. She also needed a bandage for her finger. Then we had to gossip about one of our other neighbors. Five, ten minutes later, I finally sat back down at my computer. Now, I asked myself, where was I? What on earth was I writing about? I could have just lost it and never finished this blog.

Editors learn to remember. We get lots of practice. We remember details our authors forgot. We remember the names of characters whose names change from chapter to chapter. We remember what the author said on a previous page that he has suddenly contradicted on this page. We remember useful and germane books on the topic at hand and recommend them to our author for additional research. We remember historical facts that the author has gotten wrong. Whether you’re a writer or an editor, remembering is a useful skill.

Try to remember. Learn to remember. Learn to use a system of cues and associations, learn mnemonic aids like the one medical students learn the bones of the human body, count on your fingers and assign a phrase or key word to each finger. Over the years I have developed my own system. I’ll share it with you. When you’re in that hypnagogic state before you fall asleep, tell yourself that you will remember good ideas. Say it out loud. Further, I also tell myself that if I seem to have forgotten, the idea will come back. This is a common principle in guided meditation, where you recall what the Goddess or the wizard taught you in your meditation. Still further, I tell myself that if I don’t remember, then the idea wasn’t worth remembering anyway, and I just let it go and go on to the next one that sleets into my head. When you begin your next project, remember what you’re doing and where you’re going, and you’ll be more productive.

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