Re-Writing or Writing?

IMG_0130 (1).jpg

I think of myself as a writer, but when push comes to really thinking about it, I am indeed a person who re-writes and re-vises continuously. In order to do this, it is necessary to read and re-read. If a word, or even a comma, in a poem troubles me, then it is a sign that something is wrong, somewhere. Whenever I am faced by this sensation that “something is wrong”, then I re-read, re-think, re-plan, re-vise, re-visit and re-write.

I try to re-work and re-think by asking myself (a) what is missing and (b) what can I add and (c) how am I linking things and (d) am I over-complicating and (e) what is the burning heart of the matter and (f) what am I really trying to say and (g) have I managed to actually say it. If the answer to any of these questions raises even more questions, then it’s back to the drawing board. No: a re-writer’s life is not an easy one.

I usually keep my early variants to poems (and other prose works) in chronological order and I find it useful to go back to that first precious moment of inspiration. Did I stay true to it? Did it change? How? Was the change for the better or for the worse? Occasionally, re-writing takes the original spirit right of the piece. It is sometimes very, very hard to re-write that inspiration back in, without re-turning to the original. If I am in difficulty, I will re-write from a different point of view: another person speaking, perhaps, or in prose, or as a stream of consciousness. This exercise, and that should probably be written in the plural, will either present me with a viable alternative or confirm me in (a) my original wording or (b) a new form of wording. Another simple (relatively speaking) exercise is to check for structure, theme, metaphor, and wording: are they all neatly tied together and well-linked?

This happened to me today with Obsidian’s Edge 14 & 15. Neither of my many attempts at taking Dainzú and placing it into words on a page felt right. Something was missing. But what? I couldn’t put my finger on what was going wrong. I spoke with Jiminy, my friendly Cricket Conscience, and he asked me several questions that I couldn’t answer. Luckily, I was able to choose the TV Show option phone a friend, so I did.

My friend too was troubled by these poems and said that I hadn’t managed to produce anything that seemed to express my better poetic self as he knew it. We talked out several possibilities. “Perhaps you need a lizard,” he said. “It’s a dry, dusty landscape. It can sit on a wall. But don’t worry: you’ll think of something.”

When I put the phone down, I went back to work. Sure, I was struggling with OE 15, but when I checked back to OE 14, I saw that I had been struggling with that too, but without realizing it. What to do? First, I tried writing about the lizard; then I tried adding water and lack of water; then I re-wrote from the point of view of the old lady in the poem. This certainly felt better. Then I shifted images from OE 15 back into OE 14. Then I re-wrote OE 14 from the point of view of the old woman. The poem started to feel better.

The secret, I think, is for me to relax, to be myself, to let the poem flow into me, and then to let it flow out again. I must remember not to force my writing, but to let it flow, and to continue writing as I want to write while paying attention to the small details of which I am becoming more and more aware every day. We are all creative — or we wouldn’t be here, reading this: we must let that creativity flow.

Friends are essential. Writing groups are useful. But the real secret is to develop and polish our own creativity. We must also learn to develop our own voices and to have confidence in those creative sparks that dwell within us. It is only by entering and re-entering that personal creative space that we can write and re-write in the way we really want. And we must have courage: the courage to tear down the wall and free that which is within and let it roam, un-fenced and at will. Like the cattle, like the dogs, like the wind-blown dust my old lady will see and feel, sandpaper on her skin, in the next version of her poem.

 

 

19 thoughts on “Re-Writing or Writing?

  1. That’s why I try to think things out before I write them down. If you can talk them out, think them out, then they are much easier to write down on paper. The thought process is quicker than the writing process.

    Like

  2. Could I perhaps share something here with you, what someone very close to me shared with me?:

    “It used to be said that writing is a lonely profession but I guess it’s not all that true anymore. for me that is sad and scary as well. You write and depending on how you write the response is instant….instant gratification…or even instant criticism or ridicule…that makes me wonder how long before you begin writing for instant gratification and high praise and so on..nothing wrong with that..its just a thought.”
    I’ll clarify though that the you here is a general term he used for writers. It was a comment he left me on my ‘other’ site 😉
    And I agree with him. The whole idea of blogging now seems even a little insipid to me.

    Rewriting is something I rarely do. Once I write, I leave it be because the heart is without any fences (quoting one of my dear friends here) and it writes free. The words flow, punctuation and spaces I really don’t care about. I never claimed to be a clever, head-writer anyway. I don’t mean to offend anyone here of course. And Roger check your mail ok?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wales 3 Russia 0! England 0 Slovakia 0. Wales WIN group!!! Now THAT I could keep rewriting. Cheering for Albania now!!! I love the idea of adding extra material. I hadn’t thought of that. I usually work with journal and notes. Great idea, that of yours.

    Like

  4. I love re-writing too. It adds more to the piece.
    The idea of chronologically arranging them seems to be working very well with you. I do the same and I add a music video, or a painting, or something else to trigger those emotions that I had when I first sat down to write.
    Happy RE-ing!
    Dajena 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Like you, Roger, I go through this every day. I often am dissatisfied and need to justify keeping what I have written, as I feel it is too good to junk it, and then have to bring it, or something like it, back into the story again.
    I am at present working on a delicate subject involving a young man and woman, where clothing has to be removed for various commendable reasons. If i do it wrong, it becomes clumsy and sleazy. If I do it right, then it reflects the developing love story it is meant to be.

    The Lizard Guy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I will do a post on revision. Sometimes we tread a very thin line between what we want, what the story needs, and what the reader / beholder is looking for. And yes, some days it feels like walking the plank; not that I have ever done that, but I can imagine what it might feel like.

      Like

  6. I so appreciated this, Roger. There is something about that writing flow when you know you have it. And then there are the paragraphs when you know that you don’t, and you need to rethink and rework and re-, re-, re-….

    They are two separate skill sets the writer needs, and they are very different. Thanks for sharing this enlightening piece that delves into the writer’s brain!

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s