Editor’s Desk #3

Work station in Colorado in 2008.

The wind was fierce Tuesday afternoon, blowing down branches in the neighborhood. After the Aug. 10 derecho one would have thought all the weak ones had fallen. Our property survived yesterday’s minor wind storm without damage.

I spend time on process. In reading my journals, I was reminded I always have. Early on it was a response to the quality movement as Iowan W. Edwards Deming practiced it. He was all the rage among manufacturers who spent untold millions of dollars developing ways to “improve quality.” Properly done, quality improvement programs reduced costs and improved gross margins. While on an extended business trip to West Texas, I found an autographed copy of Deming’s main work, Out of the Crisis at a thrift store for a dollar. Deming’s ideas were well disseminated, even reaching the city with the annual rattlesnake roundup. Deming’s quality process applies to writing.

My writing process evolved to the next iteration this week. I liken it to a funnel. The store of memories, artifacts and previous writing go in and slowly drain out in the form of daily thousand words rushes. Rushes are created however they occur. When I’m ready to edit, I print them out triple spaced and edit on the pages.

This week’s development was to use edited rushes to create a draft of the book in a single document n the cloud. I typed the headers of the working outline on the document, and as I write, lay parts of the rushes on the framework, re-write, and edit them again. Experienced writers may find this obvious, but y’all didn’t tell me so I had to figure it out myself. I’m satisfied the process was improved. I back up the book document after each writing session on my desktop and a flash drive.

The main benefit of studying the physical record, writing it into rushes, first edits, then incorporating the writing into the draft book makes me read what has been written multiple times. It becomes a better product. I drop segments, ones I thought were good when writing rushes, in favor of a tighter narrative. I elaborate as needed or make a note to do more research and follow the narrative down the rabbit hole of existence to make it better.

I read a journal from 1996 this week. While I don’t much think about them, the experiences remain in living memory. I tasted wild blackberries we found along the state park trail again. We swam in the lake under a blue moon again. We sat on a picnic bench watching a sailboat regatta breeze by again. The memories are visceral and real. With all the sensory stimulus, the capacity of humans to remember is remarkable.

For the first time this winter, ambient temperature dropped below freezing on Wednesday morning. It’s been a warm winter thus far. As it plays out, I’ll be watching for an opportunity to prune fruit trees. In the meanwhile I’ll be at my writing table coronavirus writing.