Monday, September 17, 2018

Love Letters to my Life #3: Editing ... how I love editing

Calle Arcoiris (Rainbow Street)
This time last month, I had just finished a book. Or, so I thought.

It was the first major writing project I had done in awhile and I had forgotten what happened at that stage. Suddenly the creativity gears shift from generation to refinement, from roughing in a painting to adding the golden highlights on the trim of a dress. 

The generation stage is blood, sweat and tears: facing a blank page, not knowing if anything will come forward.

Refinement is sweet, soft, confident, a no-fail zone ... unless the gentle sweeping away of typos, comma splices, and slightly off words reveals something deeper calling, suggesting other memories, new insights, a strange feeling of connection with something that hadn’t been there before, and is now demanding its space on the page.

Click here for free version.
This month, putting the final touches on the book pendulumed me back and forth between those two zones of creativity. One morning I woke up thinking the whole book was wrong. I had lost the thread of meaning and every page would have to be rewritten. By the next day, I could see gaps where a new page or image here or there … or maybe a whole new chapter … would pull it together. A glimpse of what I wanted to say was pulling me forward.

It fascinates me to start a creative journey like this when I truly don’t know where I’m going. I start out just wanting to rearrange the spices on the counter when suddenly I’m knocking out a wall because I just know it’s the right place to put a patio. (Thankfully, that’s merely a metaphor.)

While some writers and artists are very clear about what they want to say when they begin, others like me have to write to know what they think. When I was writing a lot of poetry, the last line almost always knocked me over and made me wonder just where it came from.

Being on a path for a long time has its benefits. I don’t get swept away by the tides as often. And, there’s a body sense when something is right or when it’s still slightly out of kilter and needs to be clarified and polished. I do love the slow, repetitive polishing, the looking for a word with the right rhythm and meaning, seeing the cliche hiding in a paragraph and pulling it up by its roots and then wondering what to plant in its stead. Looking at a page for the forty-first time and seeing a typo light up like someone had flipped a switch.

I’ve heard people ask how often a book needs to be edited. I agree with Roald Dahl who said, 
“By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” 
Click here for Roald Dahl interview
Which makes me think of a video interview with him where he talks about his process. He writes in a tiny, quiet and unswept hut and wraps himself in ritual and a warm, comfy cover for his feet. He sharpens his six pencils, sits in his one chair with a lap board for his writing pad, pours a cup of coffee from his thermos, and settles down, saying, “Finally you get settled; you get into sort of a nest; you get really comfortable; and then you’re away.”

So, now I’ve called my book done again, and put it out into the world as a free offering. Gratitude sweeps over me and once again I give thanks for the incredible gift of time. I have time to go slow, ponder possibilities, explore passing interests and whims, drop every thing and have coffee with a friend or read a good book.

Of course, now that the book is done, (she says with hope in her heart) I also have time for new projects ... and playmates to collaborate with ... so who knows how many quiet moments of reading will actually show up.

A big find for the month ... after spending a great deal of time trying to find a printer to replace the metal prints I was getting from Bay Photo, I've finally found one who uses a coating which I may like even better than metal. The opening image is a piece I entered in Fotoseptiembre photo show. Of course you can't see the finish but it makes it look very close to what you see on the screen but still doesn't need a frame or glass since I build the frame into the image itself. Progress.

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