Inclusion – A Writing Technique
I had the pleasure of talking with some of you at my seminar on omission during the January residency. At present I’m thinking about the opposite technique: inclusion.
In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard instructs, “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. … Something more will arise for later, something better.”
Wise counsel. Limiting a piece of writing to mimic existing forms – writing a novel that looks and sounds exactly like the calculated mean of all existing novels – will deaden the work. In the end, one is left with a structurally sound but empty house. It looks like the houses we’ve seen before, but no one’s home. It’s a model home in a highway subdivision where no one will ever live.
Between omission and inclusion, a balance must be struck. In the end, one must omit what’s irrelevant to a piece of writing, but identifying those irrelevancies is a writer’s entire job. The poet Charles Simic puts it simply: “Be brief and tell us everything.”