Last week I wrote about ‘Mistakes’. This caused some confusion, with friends pointing out mistakes I had made in the text about mistakes, and me responding by saying I thought I would leave the mistakes uncorrected last week just to see if we could see them in a non-judgemental, somehow positive and creative way. This also reminded me that, in a world of rapid emailing and texting there are probably billions more mistakes being made in writing every day now than there were say 10 or 20 years ago.
Maybe we should worry about that? Or perhaps celebrate our newly barbaric age? Or accept that writing is currently morphing off into a new age where its accuracy is no-longer so paramount, and where words, numbers, punctuation, signs, emojis etc. all begin to constitute soupy global mish-mash of mixed methods of communications. I suspect that a 14-year old’s communications today might be indecipherable to those of a 65 year old.
Having worried a little about leaving the mistakes visible in my post last week ( I don’t want people to think my Blog is too careless or that I am too lazy) I thought that one way to correct the balance would be to write this week on ‘Meticulousness’. I don’t usually come to the Blog post writing with a preconceived idea of what to write but this week I couldn’t get this idea out of my head so here goes.
‘Meticulousness’ is, I must admit a word and a value that I use when teaching my students to write essays and dissertations. It’s always seemed to me that a really completed piece of writing – one that includes not just your best ideas and most inspired writing but has also undergone rigorous editing, correcting, attention to technical details and thorough attention to presentation – has a wonderful strength and conviction that makes it a ‘force to be reckoned with’. i.e. it is not just something which can be easily dismissed, and this is not to do with the ideas it contains but with the care with which they have been presented or proffered.
A little while ago I added a useful word to my vocabulary – ‘adamantine’. This word describes what I am saying here about meticulous presentation, it makes a piece of writing strong, resolved, whole, upstanding, and with a kind of beautifully completed ‘ring’ to it, like that of a piece of high quality ceramic with a crisp glaze that literally ‘rings’ when you flick it with your finger.
As I say, this isn’t achieved by, or only by the ideas and style of writing within the piece, it actually begins to appear as we attend to the tiniest details that give a piece of writing authority, including all those tiresome demands made by various editors, or by academia, to adhere to this or that technical convention for the presentation of citations, bibliographies, credits, captions, permissions etc. etc.
All of these are, of course unwelcome impositions that we wish we didn’t have to attend to, when we could be waxing lyrical with more florid flourishes or toying with our adjectives, and yet, as I say, it is only by attention to all of these apparently secondary and supportive and structural elements that we can give a piece of writing that ‘adamantine’ ring that means, whether the reader agrees with or likes what you say, they have to take your writing seriously and respect the person who has made it.
Now, to finish, I just want to add that artists can and do of course also explore this adamantine sense of finish in all other modes of creativity – a perfectly resolved and completed sculpture, painting, video perhaps, or think of that experience of staging an exhibition, when you are sweeping the last tiny pieces of plaster dust from the gallery floor, standing back and saying to yourself, I could not have done any better than this.
There is something very special, very important, magical and also mysterious about the power of all this meticulousness, is there not (?) that is above and beyond the particular works themselves but which elevates them and demands that they be taken seriously.
This meticulousness, it seems to me, is something like the casting of a spell, and the production of a value in our art that is not to be looked ‘at’ but looked through, and which enhances all that is seen through it – like a frame, a filter, or a beautifully cleaned window.
I’ll finish here and illustrate this with an image suggested by the writing of Jacques Derrida (whose work I’ve been revisiting this week) and an image which alludes to Derrida’s essay ‘Parergon‘ (found in his book ‘The Truth In Painting’), which also relates to some of the points above (perhaps I can pick this thread up again next week).