It’s said that a good short story is much more difficult to write than a long novel. The process requires brevity, whilst developing a powerful narrative, engaging characters and a satisfying story. The doorstop novel looks impressive but can hide self-indulgence, contain too much unnecessary description and may lack tension or resolution. A filmmaker I spoke to said, ‘the more you edit, the better the result’. An average novel is a great short story that wasn’t edited.
It was interesting to read, amongst many recent articles on the future of fashion, that Gucci are planning to show two seasonal collections a year instead of four. In all areas, we are consuming less (with the exception of streaming services) and in doing so, discovering we need less than we thought.
There’s no such thing as a good Bond film
I’m curious, how does this worthy notion fit in an era of unlimited productivity?
Our creative instinct has long understood the role of self-discipline – the importance of starting wide – really wide - but knowing when and how to taper down to the results that cut through to the core of the idea and communicate with clarity and originality.
I watched ‘Quantum of Solace’ recently. It’s true there’s no such thing as a good Bond film – too much baggage. But what tempted me to view was the run time: just 105 minutes. And it paid off. Whatever the reviews said (average three stars), the editors held their nerve and the result was a taut, noisy and mercifully short story. It succeeded where its bloated successors failed, and I found it hugely entertaining.
But creative discipline isn’t easy. We are surrounded by visual reference that makes every idea look like a good one. Tone of voice and image appear polished, striking and eye catching (even when they’re not), and the relentless churn of ‘content’ has a devaluing effect on these most treasured possessions: our ideas. No wonder we react and try to fight back by just making more; filling our presentations with visual waffle and pointless variations; dressing up simple, decent ideas with bells and whistles that only serve to distract from mediocre options that shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
It’s a good feeling to be productive. It’s truly satisfying to be a great editor
A great design presentation usually has a story at its heart – and brevity is as valuable to designers as it is to writers. Figuring out what to keep and what to cull is terrifying at first, but soon becomes a rhythm in the process – a consequence of getting the narrative right and, crucially, demonstrating confidence in the ideas.
Rare won a significant pitch with six well thought out and clearly presented ideas. Awarding us the work, the client noted that our competition had ‘wallpapered the room’ with bold but cluttered proposals that lacked focus. Their work was almost certainly good (not as good as ours) but without the editing it lacked clarity and intention.
Artist and stage designer Es Devlin shows us how to do it in this short self-filmed ‘Culture in Quarantine’ piece for the BBC:
It’s a good feeling to be productive. It’s truly satisfying to be a great editor.