Tuesday, May 02, 2006


When my son was in high school, I went in once a week as an aide to the head of the English department and picked up a lot of interesting information -- about the school and about literature and writing. One of the things she said was this: "It doesn't bother me to noodle something for a long time. In fact, I like it. Because I have the confidence now that it will eventually come together. When you are younger, it's scary because you don't have that confidence. You haven't seen it happen over and over."

I think I'm starting to understand that. I think I'm starting to be more tolerant of the blank, chaotic times, because those seem to be when I am assimilating all the information, options, questions, etc. And that takes time. Blank time. Idle time. I have to wait. I have to be patient and trust.

I'm also realizing that I can't tell what I'm doing when I'm actually doing it. There's just too much going on in my brain to be at all clear on that, too many choices, too many changes of mind, too many questions and objections and possibilities considered and passed over. By the time I'm done I really have no idea what I actually did. Dorothea Brande was right when she said to never read a first draft right when y0u finish it. You haven't gotten far enough away from all that clutter that was generated when you first wrote it. Plus you're tired. Turnips are very poor editors.

Yesterday and today I did the Really Bad Drafts thing again and today, when I came up 2 and a half pages short of my goal, I decided I would just go back and fill in all the holes I'd left on my first pass. I would just do each hole one at a time, and if the filling was clumsy and awkward and obviously shoehorned in, that would be okay. Just so long as it was filled. I was amazed at how well that worked.

Pressing on