Rendered Fat Content


Harold Edgerton: Milk Drop into Cup of Milk (2) (1935)

“ … only become accessible once Homogenized …”

Those final editing passes amount to a kind of Homogenizing of the manuscript. First drafts tend to seem rough and feral in form. When creating, the writer wisely ignored many of the lessons their teachers tried to impart in favor of listening to their small, almost still voices emanating from their heart. Hearts do not know crap about comma placement, however, and no amount of intuition, no matter how damned well-intended, can predict what a Grammar Nazi might insist. It seems helpful to pass the work by Hoyle to gain his perspective, but a writer must never cede creative rights to any rule book. Much that makes a piece of writing interesting comes from its personality, tone, and innate quirkiness. Nobody appreciates a voice victimized by too damned much Homogenizing.

The A-Eye Grammar Engine seems determined to homogenize my writing.
The Muse confided that she had noticed a difference since I'd started dabbling with it. This news horrified without really surprising, for I understood the risk when I decided to take up with it. Artificial Intelligence replaces authenticity with homogeneity, producing prose so creamy and white that it glows at night. Its output seems so inoffensive that it offends me, and should. It seems too Goody Two-Shoes to believe, and I shouldn't. Still, its product anesthetizes, numbing critics and schoolmarms, raising no overt alarms. It's capable of improving whatever it influences but also more than capable of destroying the essential amino acids in original writing. Let this writer remain wary.

I find it remarkably seductive to work with my Grammar Engine. It offers advice in such great galloping volumes that it easily leaves my head spinning. I must take deep breaths and hefty shots of courage whenever I seek its advice and counsel because it seems to understand no limits. It can—and reliably does—find sixty or more shortcomings in four or five paragraphs of my raw writing. This number never seems inviting. It induces inadequate feelings just when I'm most in need of my God-given backbone. I dare not let the machine intimidate my innate brilliance, for it will undoubtedly seem dull and dim in the shadows of its unselfconscious certainty. I must interpret its suggestions as choices and always maintain addressability to the one who's really in charge. Editing depends upon the editor always keeping his feeling for the writing, and this is something no A-Eye Grammar Engine ever has. It cannot feel, so the author must interpret its suggestions as choices, and continue choosing wisely, whatever that might mean.

The truth suggests that nobody could possibly understand which combination of raw and Homogenizing any piece of writing might need. The Muse swears that only raw milk sour cream makes the best cookies. Thomas Wolfe delivered Look Homeward, Angel under a different title and in bundles of loose sheets tied up with string, boxes and boxes and boxes of such bundles he'd created while leaning against the refrigerator in his kitchen. His editor collated and Homogenized those feral piles into a timeless best seller. Nobody would reasonably suggest that Harpers should have released that novel as boxes and boxes and boxes of loose sheets tied up with string. Taming any piece of writing remains an art form as mysterious as any original writing. I sense myself developing deeper feelings about accomplishing this work while understanding that I'm likely to overplay my intentions at first. Manuscripts might start as perfect portraits of their authors in their original imperfections but only become accessible once Homogenized for broader consumption.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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