Dry-age your writing

Abstract photo of crowd in movement, slightly unfocused

This image reflects the early part of a writing project. It appears out of focus, blurry and yet there is action, movement, thoughts unfolding, almost solid.

There is a small ranch in Oregon that produces the best beef you’ll ever eat and oddly enough their way of doing things applies to writing. If you don’t eat beef, hang in there, this is for you too.

Happy Cow Farms is dedicated to providing top notch food, raising it in a healthful way without using hormones or antibiotics and adhering to humane standards. Their cows are grass-fed and then grass-finished, which is a step left out by the majority of beef producers. There is one other thing they do that sets their quality above the rest.

Dry-aging

After butchering, the beef is left to hang for three weeks or as it’s known in the industry, dry-aged. The result of this process is that a lot of moisture is lost, which means a much smaller yield than regular aging and consequently ending up with less meat to sell. Maybe up to a third less. The process takes longer and is therefore more costly.

Through dry-aging the flavor of the meat becomes very dense and flavorful. There is a richness, an earthiness and vitality to it that can’t be achieved using regular methods. This way of doing things requires a patience and dedication to quality that can’t be had by cutting corners.

Dry-age your writing

Your writing can be, has to be, needs to be, dry-aged too. Give it time to hang, to sit, to get to know itself. Let the excess drain out, the not-necessary words to evaporate, the meaning to become dense, rich and concentrated. It has a focus, a desire, a quest. Allow it to reveal itself to you.

Take the saw, the blade, the scalpel to it. Pair it away until it becomes better than you originally envisioned. Lift up the flaps and folds, pierce it with a fork. Does it hold up to scrutiny? Will it give your reader the ability to dream, to imagine, to learn? To see the world differently? To feel or cry?

Let your writing be until it takes on a life of its own, until you become scribe instead of writer, until, like a child, it outgrows its parent. Hold your ear close by, become the fully present listener, the witness, the confessor, the heartless interrogator.

Your writing will yield more if you let it age, die and be reborn, and rise from the ashes.

Do as I say, not …

And now for a touch of irony. I wonder how much better this post could have been if I had only let it age a little longer? Let it ferment, bubble up, allowed the smoky flavor to permeate the whole?

A question for you

What is your process for dry-aging your writing?

Tom Tiernan

 

 

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