Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On Writing: Michelangelo's principle


Faced with a fresh block of marble, the famous artist Michelangelo faced the same question we as writers face with a project: how to begin.

But it’s the wrong question, as Michelangelo explained so eloquently.

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free,” Michelangelo explained.

As writers, we need to do the same. We need to find the angel in our work and eliminate any words which aren’t part of the angel.

Last week, we discussed the need to know the reason for writing a piece. That reason, or take-away, is the angel of your work.

So our issue is to know the purpose of our writing and eliminating that which is not the angel. Chisel words that don’t add to the final idea. Be ruthless here. Leave a pile of marble dust on the floor as you reveal the principle you’re developing.

See rabbit trails as a rambling luxury that will not get your reader to the angel in the marble.

Here are a few practical suggestions:

  • Never fall in love with a particular sentence. It might be eloquent and wonderful but if it isn't part of the angel, chip it away. The delete button on your keyboard should be as well-used as Michelangelo’s chisel.
  • Focus. Maybe there are 10 wonderful points you want to make, but don’t make them all in one article unless you’re writing a book. Then you can focus on one point per chapter.
  • Read your own work critically. How many word choices are redundant? How many words are unnecessary?
  • Be sure your angel is addressed in the introduction and in the conclusion of your piece. Your reader should be clear on your point.

Next week: a wonderfully crafted biblical romance that illustrates the angel principle.

1 comment:

Angela @ Refresh My Soul Blog said...

Again, I love this series. Thanks Kathy.
Much love,
Angela