Thursday, August 24, 2006

This is great! Now change everything…

Writing is a process. For some, a joyless one.

Sometimes, also, for me.

I’m just not so great at honing this craft. I like it, sometimes I find it meaningful, and most of all I always love reading others’ words. But in terms of whittling away at a mass of blurs on a page, taking something big and pushing it small, I have so much to learn.

This revision process is a bitch.

I write the same way I think and talk. Not a good thing. It’s quick and comes out the way it wants to. There is no agonizing for this and second-guessing for that. It just flows out of my brain and flushes past my fingertips. It could make sense or it could not.

Unfortunately, that’s not how a real writer is supposed to write. It’s supposed to be that the pen is mightier than the sword because every phrase is razor-sharp by the end of many, many versions. Cohesive, fluid, symbolic. Far from clichés, yet close to the heart.

Images without pictures that surge inside of you. An unexpected ending that you never saw coming, yet when it happens you slap your forehead with, “Of course!” because nothing fits as right. A recognition of something you know but never say, or until that moment, never realized, and it changes you in a small or big way. This is good, powerful writing and it does not come to mere mortals without laborious strides. Accidents of talent may cause some to create instantaneously, but for the rest of us, it’s trying and working and moving and changing and going and going and going. It’s good, it’s worse, it’s better, it’s best, it’s bad, and then if you’re lucky, it’s near best again at the end. This is me not only writing a novel, but something as small as an article, or an assignment. Only with the blog can I get away with it. Anywhere else I slap it on the page half-hoping it will suddenly be the best it can be, I’m always found out.

It never is what it could be. It’s always more to fix, more to make right, and uncertainty if almost-perfection (relatively of course) is ever attained. But it seems that so much of that is what is involved with slogging through. The zone moments? Only the fun prongs.

The further I get, the further I see I have to go.

And I think I can be a writer someday? (Feigned laughter). Please tell me how you conquer revisions, I beg of you…


Chick said...

I really wish I could tell you...but not being a writer only advice is to get yourself a great editor. In my opinion...they are as rare & as talented as great writers.

Hang in there.

mamak said...

I echo Chicks words, I wish I could tell you .. but I think she is right - a good and talented editor, with an honest opinion is what you need.

Another twentysomething said...

I'm not there in person, but I don't mind helping you out. I work as a newspaper editor, so my grammar/spelling edits are top-notch, And I'm an ace at simplifying complicated descriptions, making things clear. E-mail if you'd like!

jm said...

Awesome post! You put it beautifully, and I totally empathize.

I have two words for you: Anne Lamott. Read "Bird by Bird," a book written by an excellent writer FOR writers. She tackles every issue under the sun (including revisions) that writers have to face, and does it with humour. Really, check it out--she's my new hero; she'll be yours, if you read it.

And, for the record, I think you already are a writer--forget "someday."

KGT said...

Revisions bring angst and loneliness. Second guessing and even self-loathing, as is often true for me.

But you said it yourself..."It never is what it could be. " And you care enough to say that because you are a writer through and through.

Some people love him, some hate him. But usually, I find him right...

"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day."
-- Ernest Hemingway

Grant said...

I write the same way you do. My thoughts and the way I speak is echoed in the way I write. The best thing I've found that has improved my writing skills has been to write as I think it, set it aside for a day or two and then read it again.

By then, you'll be detatched enough to critically edit what you've written to make it better. Of course, I don't always follow my own advice.

I saw something that clarified my own understanding of writing, that part about "the pen is mightier than the sword because every phrase is razor-sharp by the end of many, many versions. Cohesive, fluid, symbolic. Far from clichés, yet close to the heart."

Perhaps, after letting those random thoughts flow, determine what it is that you're writing about and edit your writing with that in mind.

Cheetarah1980 said...

I let others do the revising for me. I HATE revisions more than plucking my nose hairs. It's heinous.

Laura said...

I hate revising. H-A-T-E it. It is the most tedious, horrible task ever. That is, until you start really seeing the improvements, and until your readers/workshop group start seeing them as well.

(Also, editors don't actually "edit" necessarily. They may let you know what some of the major problems are, or suggest certain revisions, but you still have to do all the work. It is your baby, after all.)