I’m sick of talking about being sick, at least for today (yes, I have a cold on top of the stupid stroke). So before I become one of those sick people who can ONLY talk about their sickness and NOTHING ELSE (@#*&^!!!!!), let’s change the subject for a little while. In fact, I want to change the subject back to what I used to blog about on this site: the writing life.
I’m in a literary mood. I even went out driving this morning and stopped by the bookstore, where I gazed at all the tomes again, touching their spines and sighing over all the reading I wish to do. I thought about buying more books but reined myself in–I have enough “to read” books in my stack! Okay, just one. I bought Vonnegut’s A Man Without a Country. To go in that ginormous, growing stack. And a bunch of cards and postcards. Because a girl has GOT to keep up her correspondence.
I’ve been checking in on other blogs these days, pondering the craft of writing, brainstorming ideas. Elizabeth has touched upon the subject of revision over at Fluent. And Nova has written about morning writing vs. nighttime writing. All things of interest.
Revision is of interest to me, because so many writers in my circle make such a big secret of it. (So I laud Elizabeth on bringing this topic up). Is it because it’s an uncomfortable subject, is it because perhaps there are no rules to revision, is it because it’s the most vulnerable part of the writing process? More than one writer I know has insisted they “do not revise.” Chang-Rae Lee has even stated this fact in public–he writes a draft of his novel, shows it to his wife and editor and that’s it. If they recommend a revision, he just starts a whole new novel.
Other writers have told me they do not revise–and when I’ve asked them what it is they do–they’ve described the concept of salvaging to me: they just take what they like out of a story and make another story out of it. Or they just bluntly tell me they throw the story away if it’s not good enough. I have to say I do a lot of that myself, but I’m not sure if it’s because I don’t believe in revision as much as I don’t know how to approach revision.
When I’ve discussed this issue of “non-revision” to other established and/or “famous” writers, they’ve scoffed. “They’re lying!” they insist and hiss. “That is such bullsh*t!” howled another. Maybe the non-revision stance is a front? I don’t know. It’s interesting to see this debate about revision–if you never revise as a writer, are you just “fronting?” Or is that for real?
My MFA program is offering a revision workshop–of course, I’m on a leave of absence from school this semester and will be nowhere near that revision workshop. I wonder how it is going–I’ll have to email a friend and ask her if she’s learned anything new in there. Or is it just a workshop where people understand the pieces have been previously reviewed…and nothing else. I wonder what there is to really learn about revision or if it is just as private a process as “how one writes,” or “how to come up with good ideas.”
Speaking of “how one writes,” I mentioned Nova’s posting about when one writes. She is a morning writer (as am I). There are those who write almost solely at night, like Sylvia Plath. The odd thing is that I used to be a nighttime writer, feeling the incredible solitary feeling of night–night time with its pitch black background provided my brain with an intense focus that I do not have in the daytime.
I don’t know what made me switch over to morning writing–but morning writing feels light and clean, for lack of better words. And I like the energy that comes to me from a full night’s sleep, and the fact that I am using my first moments to write. I don’t write as long in the mornings as I used to at night…but I have similar outcomes (there is no change in quality or length). I wonder, however, like Nova, about the differences of writing at different times of day. What is it that I write about in the inky night that is hard to approach as light spreads soft wings in the morning?
Halfway through this post, I went on an impromtu lunch with a good friend. I find that the best way for me to remember to eat is to arrange a meal with other people, and I just happened to have some unforeseen extra time. As we drove through town to grab a slice of pizza, we talked about her novel writing progress (and of course, hot gossip).
She and I are two very different types of writers–she is prolific, I am not, for all that means and produces, for starters. Our styles are so different, that people assume we are not compatible at all. In fact, one of our MFA professors raised an eyebrow when she saw us walk into a room together our first year. “How could THOSE TWO BE FRIENDS?” she seemed to say, but without words. But we are–I think it’s important to examine issues from different and unique perspectives.