Revision

Today’s task is revision. There is a personal essay I’ve written and revised which has not been able to find a home, but I still believe in the message, so I must work on the medium. It’s time to revise again before hurling that bottle back out into the ocean.

And so, with that in mind, I find myself a quiet corner and a cup of coffee and open my laptop. Logging into my Google Drive, the Quick Access panel at the top of the page displays thumbnails of four files, one of which is captioned “You edited this week.” Two others are labelled “You edited this month.” The fourth, which actually appears as the third thumbnail, is blazoned with “You edited at some point.” For some reason (and at some point), that makes me laugh.

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Is this a sign of encouragement or accusation? Should I be glad that the file was in fact edited at some vague point in the past, or should I feel guilty that I have neglected it for, well who knows how long, but at least more than a month? What is Google’s purpose here? Its motivation? Maybe it’s passive-aggressive; “you worked on this once, what happened? It’s been a while, you know, and you need to do a bit more. I mean, it’s been so long that even I, the Great Google, cannot remember when you last opened this file.” Then again, maybe it isn’t passive-aggressive; maybe Google is like, “Yeah! You did some work on this! Isn’t that great! Pat yourself on the back.” I cannot decide on the tone.

Whatever it is, I cannot help but think of my friend Gerri’s blog, Grammarian in the City, on which she makes snarky remarks about signs seen around NYC. If this comment on my revision schedule were posted on a building, I’m sure she’d have something to say about it!

In the meantime, I’ll get back to my revisions “at some point” and hope Google approves.

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Writing, Rambling, and a Cat

Today I managed what I consider a great feat: I got my printer to work again! Ever since my computer updated, I have not been able to print anything. And for the most part, that has been okay. But I have been writing for much of the summer, working on a novel that I have attacked in fits and starts for years now. I really wanted to make some headway this summer and see if it still has life to it. And I have. You see, since I have worked on and off for years on this and in different places, the bits and pieces have been all over the place. I wrote much of the story longhand at first in a couple of different notebooks. I have take much of that and revised and typed this summer to get a good idea of what I have, putting different chapters or sections in different files. Getting the printer going has allowed me to print it all out and read through it together–as one would a novel. Now I can get an idea of what works, what doesn’t, and what’s missing as I figure out if the parts make a whole.

So I am very happy with myself.

Then, I start reading.

Immediately, I realize that the whole beginning needs editing. I mean, of course it does; I am not shocked, but still. The beginning? The first line? It can be a little disheartening. But I get to it. I make some changes. It’s good, but there’s a question I am not sure about regarding the positions of mortician and coroner. Hmmm…(Did I mention that much of the novel takes place in a funeral home?) I’d better do some more research. Luckily, I have a friend who just finished her mortuary science degree, and I have been able to call on her for some detail verification, but today, I went to the Internet where I found some fascinating reading on the history of coroners and mortuary science as well as the incredibly varied systems around the country regarding the business of death. But, I digress. Time to click that tab shut, close the laptop, and return to the printout.  Which I do. And I find a way out of the dilemma that sent me to those articles in the first place. Another win!

Then, my assistant shows up:

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He has another opinion about writing.

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His opinion is that writing keeps me from petting him, and therefore all implements thereof must be destroyed. Luckily, he has not been successful in his attempts, but I do think a petting and feeding break is in order!

Wish me luck as I continue on my quest, especially as it seems there is one file missing. I may have to go back to the notebooks yet again to continue the revision and typing before I can attack the ending–as of yet unwritten in any form, but floating around my head looking for an anchor.

 

Likes, Revision, Imitation, Comments

Today I received a notification from WordPress of a new like for a poem I wrote in April, “Take Off.” This particular like did a few things for me. It reminded me that I have been remiss in writing my blog this past month. I have allowed myself to get bogged down in I don’t even know what, but I have also been spending some time revisiting and revising stories and poems as well as writing new ones. Hopefully, I will have something to share with you soon. However, that reminder was not the only benefit of the new like. Of course there is the gratification of hearing that someone likes something you have written. We all crave that, do we not? Why else would we blog, if not to be heard and interact? Without that desire, we could write and simply store our writings on our hard drives or in desk drawers. But writing is about communicating. This particular like spoke to me in that it sent me back to the poem I wrote in  April. And as I have been experiencing this summer, rereading and revising are an important part of the creative process.

When I received the notification that “Take Off” had received a new like, I immediately thought of the poem, or at least I thought I did. I remembered a poem in which I compared starting a new career later in life to a plane readying for take-off. I remember writing the poem; I remember what I was thinking and whom I was thinking of when I wrote it. I smiled thinking about that. Then, I clicked on the poem’s title and realized, oops, that’s not the poem that was liked! “Take Off” is a poem about imitation–both good and bad. The poem I was remembering has the words “take off” in it, but the title is “Departures.” So, I reread both poems. And I have to say, I still like them both. Even though “Departures” received no likes on WordPress (though it did receive some small notice on Facebook), I still think it is a good poem. But it is churning in my head now; perhaps because I have reread it and am willing to revise it, I can make it better. Let’s see what I come up with in the next few days!

Rereading “Take Off” also reminded me of the importance of practice and imitation. We learn from those who have gone before us. If we want to write poetry, we must read poetry too. Let’s comment on each other’s poems with something more thoughtful than “I like it.” Though it is always great to hear that, let’s tell each other why we like it. Let’s help each other develop the better parts of our poetry. Let’s also read some of “the greats,” the established poets, and imitate them. Try writing in the style of Wordsworth or Cisneros or Komunyakaa. These may end up being the poems that stay on our hard drives or in our journals, but it is an age old practice to imitate others in order to learn and to find one’s own voice. We cannot stay there in imitation, but we can start there, learn, and then take off on our own.

The Need to Weed

As I was returning home today, I noticed that my flower bed needs weeding. Even though the impatiens are not doing well, I still don’t want them surrounded by weeds. I need to get out there and pull those green shoots and clovers that distract the eye from the flowers.

Coming inside and sitting down at my desk, I began to reread a short story I wrote a few years ago. I had sent it out to a professional editor for an assessment and was a bit disheartened by the response. I really felt he didn’t get it. The commentary focused on a character I considered minor. And, many of the mark ups were stylistic rather than content based. I had not submitted this to the magazine, but rather for a professional commentary. To direct much of the energy of the marginalia to changing the manuscript to that particular journal’s style guide seemed disingenuous to me, fraudulent even. I thought I was paying for a content assessment, not a comma check. My knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss the review altogether. However, after some time has passed and the initial dejection experienced by the editor’s comments has dissipated, I can more objectively look at the advice given.  I reread the story, and there is some weeding to be done there as well.

“Kill your darlings.” Every writer has heard this advice, but it is hard isn’t it? Sometimes the perfect sentence just doesn’t add anything to the story. I have read advice of creating a file of the darlings you excise for use in some other story, but I find that just doesn’t work. Once they’re dead, they’re dead.

In other creative endeavors, this advice still rings true. Tonight, I was crocheting a blanket–a pattern of my own making–, and I noticed that after a few rows, it was growing wider. I recounted the stitches, and indeed, I had somehow gone from 56 to 59. I tried first to figure if I could adjust the next few rows down again to a happy medium. There will be an outer edge crocheted on at the end to finish the project which could hide this imperfection. But, no. I thought of my mother-in-law and how proficient and precise she was with her crafting. Her works are truly heirlooms to be treasured not only because they came from her hands but also because they are truly works of art.  So, I did what I needed to do and I ripped it out to the point where the mistake happened and started over. I killed my darlings and started over. I weeded out the extra stitches.

Now I am contemplating the same thing with a painting I am working on. The painting, which I blogged about back in March (https://crcreateaday.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/angelic-assistance/), is a copy of the face of Mary during the Annunciation. However, in my version, I think she looks like a character on The Simpsons. Not exactly what I was going for. While I may not exactly “kill this darling,” I think she needs to be put aside for a while until my skills improve. In the meantime, I will sketch and paint other things. My teachers will give me projects and assignments to help me improve. Hopefully, by the time I am ready to go back to Mary, I will be ready to weed out what needs to be gone from the painting in order for Mary to leave The Simpsons and regain her ultimate innocence.

We all need to weed from time to time, in all different areas of our lives. Next week, I will attack the flower beds and then the other creative endeavors. Weeding helps the beautiful flowers grow.