Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Bit About Writing Anway: Process and Progress

If you are going to be a writer, you have to write because you love to craft sentences.  You should be driven to do it.  Because strangers are likely not going to read what you write.  Even people who know you will likely not read what you write.  And it's not because what you write is just plain awful.  Necessarily.  It's hard for good stuff to get to people.  Even the wildly popular book The Help (now a major motion picture) was turned down 60 times by literary agents as unmarketable, even "tiring writing."

Your family will not read you.  You will stop asking.  People will tell you what you wrote was good and won't mean a word of it, or they will mean it but you will not believe them.  You will love the work and the product only to find you can't even bear to keep the file on your jump drive when you look at it later.  You may constantly open up one little poem from the drive that you feel things for that you haven't felt since you got your first pet or watched your child snuffle loudly in her sleep.  That poem will be your darling.  It will do things for you that haven't been done to you since you stopped making out in the back seat of Pontiacs.  Your little poem or novella will look like Dobby from Harry Potter more than it will look like Harry Potter to a literary agent. 

You must still write or you are no writer.  Moms across the world make children and raise them to adulthood with no credible expectation that those children will paint the Sistine Chapel or become president of the PTA.  Still, they raise their darlings and spend time on them and love them and do the work of momming because they are Mothers--capital M.

You, a Writer, must write words that are shuffled into coherent, clear sentences which may never be read among others of their kind that you will sweat over, turning them into poems and novellas.  If you are a writer, you do this or you are no writer.

And now, if you are good at predicting plot--and we become good at predicting plot from creating so many of our own--you will expect me to come back to the beginning of this tiny essay and tell you how Kathryn Stockett got The Help published anyway, thereby freeing it to become beloved by others in the way that she alone loved it through so many rejection letters.  I won't do it.  The link above tells that tale. 

I will tell you about rewrites.  This is the other task of the writer.  You must tear apart your darling and remake it, leaving it's tiny phonemes and syllables scattered across the breadth of your hard drive after decisively clicking "delete." You will leave those bits to be overwritten with other sentences that will be hard-born and well-crafted into more poems and novellas.  And so it goes on.  And likely the jump drive will fill with these, and the hard drive will fail before someone reads them.  But if you are like me, you are not a bit sad right now.  You love the writing.  You'd rather do that than anything else.  You'd rather write bad drafts than rest or make love some nights.  I am not going to be Kathryn Stockett or write a Harry Potter series.  My work is not that good or marketable.  Or it is, and I'd rather be writing short stories than cover letters. I will definitely be writing.  And some of the process will be here for the world to totally ignore.