Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whiskey From Mash

"In art economy is always beauty."
~Henry James

Internet source unknown


1. to let fall, exude, or precipitate in drops or in a wet mist
2. a: to subject to or transform by distillation (distill molasses into rum) b: to obtain by or as if by distillation (distill whiskey) (able to distill humor from personal loss) c : to extract the essence of : concentrate

I lied.

I didn't keep this piece Kono raw. Sorry Kono, I couldn't help myself. But I made only minor changes. Negligible. Barely noticeable.

I gave the unedited piece to my writing professor, as I had drafted it as the skeletal beginnings of a short story. He didn't mark it up so much, but where he did, it counted. Where I had doubted or debated, he discerned. He suggested the deletion of a sentence, rewording of another, addition of tension, and a title change. But since I've already published it, title modification would require some magic. If I'm able to spin its threads into a luscious fabric of short story I'll woolgather title then.

In any event, this is not only about tweaking of story, it's springtime and I am working on distilling. (As it appears to me that my life, in general, would benefit from assiduous editing as well.)
"Art, it seems to me, should simplify finding what conventions of form and what detail can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole—so that all that one has suppressed and cut away is there to the reader’s consciousness as much as if it were in the type on the page." ~Willa Cather
While doing thatdistilling, editingI'm cleaning and moving things around, adding here, subtracting there, attempting to extract the essence of a thing. All things. So, it's a little topsy-turvy here, on this blog and elsewhere, but this is what happens when one distills. Things can get quite messy during the process, even a little sticky, sour and odiferous. But it's worth the effort, as the residual is often sweet tang.

I'm looking around my house at all the Stuff. All the kitchenware, Weller and McCoy pottery, old glass and antiques. (I cleaned drawers recently and found eight different bottle stoppers—what does that say about my wine habit?)  Do I need any of this Stuff? Does it enhance my life? Does it help me better understand the universe? No. It's just layers of Stuff. Layering. Layers are nice, layering is good in story and it keeps us warm, protects and adds texture. But the weight and grandiloquence of  layering also suffocates. If I pare down, can I retain the spirit of the whole?

It was DaVinci who said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

I think editing is successful when the act of omission is not a liability. And when addition does not change the sum of all the parts.

So I'll keep editing. Weed out the yard and house: toss old cans in my pantry, purge my wardrobe, trash magazines, whittle away at all my Stuff. That goes for my habits, vices and attitude as wellI'm going to be separating wheat from chaff. I'm going for essence. I'm distilling. And hoping for bountya stiff shot of rare and exquisite whiskey.

Bottoms up.
Source unknown


  1. You knew I'd be by with "whiskey" in the title. :)
    I always wait for the end of tax season to do the distillation of accumulated crap, things, stuff, and accoutrements that I end up with. So, you're ahead of me. :)
    I hope that your whiskey is superb, dear lady.

  2. Whiskey or maybe KY Bourbon?! Either way I found a sack of quick-pour caps this week, what does that say about me? :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  3. Really liked this post on the distillery of stuff. Thank you.

  4. May your life be one big, happy haiku! Da Vinci also said "A small space revives a tired mind". May all your spaces and their accompanying layers work to that end! Cheers!

  5. 4 sure Jayne - I'm totally innundated with stuff and in dire need of distillation. Instead I find more boxes and wonder what happened to things

  6. DB- Haha! Funny how titles draw certain traffic. Tax season stretches out beyond reasonable allotment for me, so I've got to started earlier w/the cleaning. But that's alright- I get the reward (or whiskey) much sooner. ;)

    Jules- LOL! I think I need to take a trip to KY - you have some fun out there! :)

    Antares- Thank you... it's that time of year, and if I write, I'm bound to follow through to the bitter end. ;)

    LordW- Yes, that's the perfect DaVinci quote! I am definitely aiming for revival!

    David- There's always a bottle (or shot) of Whiskey... whether you've distilled or not... helps you at least feel like you've accomplished something. :)

    Nessa- Aha! I like that solution, my friend! Flush away. I'll give it a whirl myself. ;)

  7. Best of luck with the spring cleaning. I've got a fair bit of that going on here, myself. Also, distillery, eh? Don't take it wrong, but I hope you've got a proper backwoods shanty shack in which to prepare your concoction. I hope it's delicious! Co-author Bryan is a home beer brewer, so I'm sure he'd appreciate this.

  8. Mash whiskey is fine for the masses hen, but have you ever tried real malt whisky? The kind without the E? Now that's a whisky.

  9. Definitely the time of year for shedding and clearing. (I should really follow suit!)

  10. soon i'll be handing in my creative writing to the tax man and awaiting his response.

  11. I've always been a proponent of simplicity. For as long as I can remember I've always tried to sort of intuitively narrow down any idea to it's essence, to it's core. I try to make sure my writing reflects that. I don't really think there is any idea out there that can't be simplified enough to make it digestible to your average person. If it seems complicated, it isn't the concept, it's that you're trying to combine too many ideas into one. It's not really something you can follow at all times, but there really isn't any mantra to always follow.

    I'm a huge fan of Einstein. I still haven't, to steal your term, distilled his theories down in my mind yet but I like that from a philosophical level what he was searching for was simplicity in the universe. That always spoke to me. He made his ideas simple, to him at least. Sooner or later the world will catch up.

  12. Beer- Thanks for your wishes. It's the tiniest of distilleries... one drip at a time, but it's going to be excellent! :)

    Laoch- Thank you. :)

    Jimmy- Thanks for paying a visit. I don't know if I've tried real malt whiskey (w/out the e), but it sounds like I'm going to have to find some. ;)

    SF- It's a bit daunting, but necessary!

    BP- Aren't you and accountant? I'll bet the tax man will be might impressed. ;)

    Christopher- Exactly. Must be a mantra. Sometimes it takes a lot of weeding to figure out where it's core is. And I hope the world does catch up to Einstein. I'm a fan also. Back in early January, I had a nice little conversation with him. Pure brilliance he was. ;)

  13. Distilling makes my head hurt!

  14. Lin Ann- I've got the good stuff. I'll share it with you. Promise, no headaches. ;)