Spring is coming! Despite the 18 inches of snow that we experienced earlier this week, spring is coming voraciously toward us. The sun is bright and the melting snow blinds me and sounds like rain as it drips off of the balcony outside my window.
Revisions are like spring cleaning—a task that I despise and avoid at all costs.
This revision really sucker-punched me. Just as I thought that I would see the end (I had about 20 pages left and I thought I’d finish that evening), a nasty, unbearably insistent thought crept into my mind. The order was all wrong.
So, in a fit of passion, I ripped my revision to shreds, opened a new document, and reconstructed the pieces of my manuscript into a new narrative.
I’m starting to think of the manuscript(s)—all of them, really—as an entity, rather like a human being. Or more like lots of human beings together in an unpredictable landscape that constantly changes… Those beings and that place meld together into a single life force.
That life force, the manuscript, breathes and thinks on its own. It has a will more powerful than mine, and it is not altogether benevolent.
We fight. Most often, I lose.
Revision, then, is like the catalyst for the evolution of said manuscript (i.e. life force). As with most catalysts, it also has its own properties, and it will yield an infinite set of possibilities.
My job is to weave my way through those possibilities.
It’s a journey that has no pathway, full of darkness and fraught with dangers—the most terrifying of which is that my very own composition of self seems at stake.
I’ve thought a lot lately about what exactly makes up this entity I consider to be me. And I’ve thought a lot—separately—about what I wanted my novel to be.
Neither line of thought does much good, so I try to push the meandering ideas aside like the dog hair tumbleweeds that clutter the floor—but like most issues that are the source of worry, they are not easily silenced.
I wanted my novel to be about A, B, and C (imagine, here, what those letters could represent)—it exists, and it breathes, but it’s about X, Y, and Z (create your own ideas, as long as they are the polar opposite of A, B and C) instead.
And yet, despite the blizzard in March, the spring will come. Despite the mess I’ve made of my manuscript, a newly constructive narrative is emerging with its glossy green leaves.
What I did accomplish this week is a second revision of a novel that is almost definitely better than the first draft.
And for today, as I hold out for spring, I will count that as a major accomplishment.
Ashley: 1 Manuscript-Destroying-Revision-Monster: 0
I’ll take a win any day, in whatever form it comes.
Ahhh… Snow days (albeit with virtually no snow) and hot chocolate—those rare moments of peace and joy. And revision.
Oh, wait… Revision doesn’t exactly fit into that photogenic image of the cozy chair next to the fireplace. And yet, it is a vital part of life. At least the life of a writer.
I’ve waited thirty years to call myself a writer, and now as I sit in my NaNoWriMo t-shirt with my tiny laptop in my cozy chair next to the flames, I’m inundated by the awareness that this is the life of a writer (or the side-life of a teacher who wants to also write and has to cram the writing—and now, even worse, revision—process into the nooks and crannies of life). It’s not as glorious as I had imagined all of those years when I was too afraid to consider myself one.
I realize as I sit here procrastinating instead of revising, that this website is already morphing into something I did not anticipate. The best laid plans… Though in my case, the planning is relatively minimal, but the entity is already escaping the purpose I intended. I’m becoming more accustomed to the tiny part that my conscious mind plays in the creative process—nothing turns out the way that I expect. I don't like it, but I'm learning to live with it.
I preach to my students about staying focused on their purpose and their argument—that those specific statements are the focal points on what can be a widely wandering and difficult-to-read road map. I tell them that revision is vital, that it is just as important as writing.
However, I don’t tell them how difficult it is to know course ahead of you, and I certainly do not mention how hard it is to follow the course even once you find hints of what it should be—even with the best road map. It’s challenging to read a map that is perpetually changing.
Perhaps it will be easier for them. With academic writing, it has always been easy for me. Creative writing is a different beast entirely.
The revision process is like taming a stubborn wild horse. Or like doing a deep cleaning of a filthy house. The truth is I’ve never been good at that kind of thing; I’m too impulsive and I lack the discipline and patience. It requires ingenuity, courage, and determination, and after a month in the doldrums of revision, I’m running a bit low on all three.
And yet if I intend to continue calling myself a writer, I better get back to it. Enough procrastinating. Revision awaits.
"that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we're all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we'll ever have..."
© K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to K. Ashley Dickson and Teaching the Apocalypse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All thoughts and ideas are the author's and do not represent any employer.