Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Writing: When the Muse Strikes
First–go read this post on Periphery. Then come back. Thanks again, Tangled Lou, for making my brain work this morning. What are the nuts and bolts of my writing and editing process? How do I write? How much do I edit? What kind of writer am I?
I write because it is in my schedule to write, generally, not because the muse strikes. This is because I am the mother of three, I guess. When the muse strikes, her ass has to wait until there's a free moment. I do remember what she was talking about though. Sometimes I even scribble down notes.
I compose in Blogger. I'm so used to it that I compose in Blogger even when it isn't for my blog, which is dumb. It's like my blog owns ALL my writing. I should probably stop doing that, if I am going to start submitting work for actual pay, huh?
I have no pre-formed outline in my head, or anywhere else, when I sit down to write, although I usually have a general notion, more like a prompt than anything more specific. I grab onto that idea, usually without any real sense where I want to go with it exactly and start writing. I get quiet and listen for the right word. I keep a thesaurus tab open all the time on my browser, to help me recollect the perfect word I am trying to remember, or sometimes replace a word that just sounds wrong in the sentence.
I edit as I go. I get several paragraphs in, having corrected all the spelling and grammar mistakes I find as I write, and start re-reading it to myself. I do this every time I hit a pause and am not sure where to go next. When I re-read, I can hear both what is wrong with what I wrote and what I need to write next. By "what is wrong" I mean a lot of things: the rhythm of a sentence and paragraph, the harmony of words sharing that space together, the consistency of tone. Does the sentence ramble or sound too bare? When does a colorful word add depth and when does it sound overworked, pompous?
Unless I am greatly pressed for time, I re-read and edit like this and then go over the finished product in preview mode up to 10-15 times, each time catching new errors or clunky turns of phrase. I catch the most errors when I read aloud. An average post takes me two to three hours to write because of this. After I post it, my 14 year old invariably says "Did you mean 'on' here, not 'of? etc., etc. anyway." This is why a professional editor would not go amiss.
I scrap heaps of writing. I have learned to be totally unattached to my work until it feels finished. I have spent up to an hour working on a post, realized it sucks lemons, and consigned it to the scrap heap, images, edits and all. I have a graveyard of unfinished posts or posts I started just to remind myself I want to write about that. I rarely get back to the former.
My mom is a writer and, growing up around writers, I learned to be unafraid to toss any amount of writing that didn't serve what I was after. I used to get very upset, when I was younger, and Mom would say "This paragraph doesn't work." A whole paragraph was like a child to me. Now I toss paragraphs on the midden heap with nary a backward glance. Most of this post has been about editing because that is most of what my writing time is consumed with. So there you have it.
The most interesting question TL asks is this: Does your brain shut down when you write? Or are your senses alive? I am totally alive when I write. Writing is a long racing slog to the top of a mountain, my body coursing with endorphins. The voice of the sentence that wants to be expressed becoming the true thought that appears in text makes me feel like a prophet. I have total faith that if I can hear well enough, I can write.
Tangled Lou has a great dialogue going in the comments of her post on this topic, which I linked above. You should check that out and join in. I have a number of readers who are not writers, but are photographers, musicians, actors, computer programmers, and otherwise talented human beings. What I am curious about is "the zone." Do you do you art, music, etc. in a state of grace? Are you fully alive when you are doing it, and is this why you do it, because you have to? Or is it just for fun? Some of you say you are "not commenters," but I want to hear from you!
However, before you answer–would you please, if so inclined vote for me as one of Circle of Moms Top 25 Funny Moms? I have a garish pink button on the top of my blog. Simply click it and it will whisk you magically away to a web page where my blog is buried way the Hell down near the bottom. You can vote once a day until March 21, 2012. You should not spend all day voting over and over, as much as you might like to, because that would be against the rules. You are encouraged to return every day, say, after your breakfast cereal and vote again. You will be doing this purely to cheer me up. It is essentially meaningless. But, so are birthdays and we all keep right on celebrating them anyway, right? It will make me happy.
Think of it as a pony that you can give me for free.
Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License