02 January 2014

Forging a blade

Watching Nova's Secrets of the Viking Sword yesterday, I was impressed with the work that goes into purifying iron ore to make crucible steel, and the effort an ironsmith puts into beating an ingot until its crystalline structure gets slippery enough to form a bar, then beating it for hours more to form a blade. Then there's a process called quenching: controlled cooling that's supposed to help steel become tougher and more flexible.

Watching the ironsmith work, listening to his concerns, I was reminded of the process of editing. Fraught, a challenge for sure, editing carries destruction as its risk. It takes courage to get past fears of cutting too much, of damaging a work's essential nature.

But without edits, how can essence become manifest, except by accident or an audience's indulgent imagination? Editing is cutting away, and reshaping, rearranging. It's suitable for art, design, relationships, and self, as much as it is for writing.

It's a long process that needs focus, sensitivity, listening and feeling. It needs practice, trust that one can hold something without crushing it, and insight and courage, to learn how to recognize and kill one's monsters as well as one's darlings.