When It's Right to 'Unwrite'The quote is included in a sidebar of the latest newsletter from one of my favorite commentators, Denny Hatch.
As an avid stitcher in my spare time, I often have to rip out my work to fix mistakes. My fellow stitchers jokingly call this "reverse stitching." As a writer of nonfiction for young people and adults, I often find myself doing something very similar. I call it "unwriting"—and it's no fun.
What's particularly frustrating about unwriting is how unpredictable and time consuming it is. The story will be moving along and then, out of nowhere, it will stall out. This happened about a third of the way through my book on Prohibition for young people ... I pressed on, writing a few pages one day and deleting them the next. Then I'd do it again. A week passed, and I was still stuck.
Finally, with books across my desk and articles across my lap, it hit me: I didn't need this section at all ... Thanks to unwriting, days of work became a mere 10 lines of text. Just as often, unwriting is required to overcome my irrational attachment to certain facts or stories
The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2011
(By the way, Blumenthal offers at least one good, specific illustration of unwriting. Check it out. The story--and the principle of "angas" she describes--is one I very much need to take to heart.) Thank you, Ms. Blumenthal!