Posted tagged ‘revising’

To Drafts! Revisions! Community! Poetry! Wine!

October 12, 2011


Kind of a funny evening after a very tense day.  The tension I think was chemical–well, partly–modern life is so so busy it makes for tension even in the near comatose.  (Also, in this day and age, if you are lucky enough to be employed, you tend to have an awful lot to do.)  But I also took an herb this morning, Gingko Biloba, which is meant to protect against brain dulling, but I think, in my case, may have caused brain hypersensitivity.

Then came the evening, which was subsumed in several long and worrisome telephone calls.  The great part of having aging parents is having aging parents; the difficult part is having aging parents.  The great certainly far outweighs the difficult, but where there is a significant risk of loss, there is the significant fear of loss.

And then, for some reason, I started looking through old draft poems that are on this blog, but virtually in no other file of mine.  Although I spent some energy on the drafts on the days I wrote each of them, I then virtually forgot about most of them, never refining, editing or even looking at them.

But tonight, perhaps because I should be working overtime on something else, all those unfinished poems suddenly beckoned.

Partly, this interest in old drafts has been sparked by my recent involvement in various online poetry websites and blogs, which really has been very inspiring.

The  glass of wine I had with dinner also seemed to make the call of these old draft poems somewhat more eloquent.

Still!  To old notebooks!  Drafts! Unfinished manuscripts!  Poetry blogs!   (Here here!)

Blocking Re-Writer’s Block. Keep the Faith. And the Moocow.

January 9, 2010

I have written several posts in the past about blocking writer’s block.  (If you are interested, these can be found by clicking the category “writer’s block” from the ManicDDaily home page.)

I am extremely lucky that I don’t typically suffer from writer’s block.  I can usually write something. The quality of that something may not be great, but I can put words down on the page.   A harder problem is re-writing.

The wonderful glow that comes from a first draft, or even a first edit, is generally not available in the hard, repetitive, slog of revising a major project.   When one first writes something, one often feels happy simply at finding coherence, flow.  For someone who grew up before the days of the computer, there’s a wonder simply in seeing one’s thoughts set out in typeface (rather than scribble).

But as one’s investment and expectations grow, the re-writing can become onerous.  Questions plague every re-writing session.  They tend to run along the lines of:

1.  What else can you cut?   (It’s still too wordy, boring.)

2.  Have you cut too much?  (You’ve squeezed all the life out.)

3.  Are you really making it better?

4.   How can this take so much time?

5.  It was a dumb idea to begin with.  (And that’s not even a question.)

6.   Maybe you should just quit.  (After all this time?)

Avoiding the burden of extensive revision is one of the joys of a daily blog.  (While you have to worry about coming up with something all day long, at least you know you won’t have much time to re-write it!)

But if you are a attempting a novel, a story, even a poem, you usually have to rework it quite a bit.   And, unless you are lucky enough to have a deadline and an editing staff, this process simply takes as long as it takes (often long enough for you to get thoroughly sick of it).

Sometimes you have to cut out whole sections, sections that you have labored over for weeks, sections that you had a particular love for.  (These may be the most suspect.)  You will feel a bit like you are working on a  crossword, and a whole corner needs to be erased.  (Only, frankly, you’ll likely feel much much worse.)

For me, the most important rule in re-writing is simply to keep faith with yourself.  You must be open to cutting, but if you constantly question the worth of your entire project, you will not be able to go through the hard slog of making it better.

Perhaps the concept is not worthy of James Joyce.  (But remember, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, begins: “once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road…”  This, though recognized as great prose now, undoubtedly took a fair amount of ego and faith on Joyce’s  part.)

Even so, you must accept that you write about the kinds of things that you write about.   Even the moocows.  (Especially the moocows.)

Try, at least, to make your writing the best that it can be before giving into the urge to throw it away.   (Even then, keep the moocow.)