Sunday, September 08, 2013

Picking Up Where I Left Off

I’ve spent the past few months revising a manuscript that I started working on before going in for surgery in April.

It took a while after the operation to find the rhythm to write again. I still have yet to regain the same energy and enthusiasm that I had before surgery. But now, thank goodness, I’m capable of sitting for an hour or two while focusing on how the words sound and whether the sentences are awkward and if I’ve omitted some piece of information unintentionally.

Each morning, over the past six months, I’d walk before breakfast and think about the manuscript and the months that it took to get the words on paper. It was a bit like meditating, just thinking about the project—its major themes and scenes and how I felt about it all. Each step gave me a way to sink a little deeper into the idea of revisions.

After breakfast, I put up a pot of tea or brewed a cup of coffee and headed into my office to begin work. Always, it was a challenge to go straight to the Word software program without clicking on Facebook to see what other writers and friends were doing. But once on the page again, with the words appearing on the screen, I felt as if I’d jumped into the pool, and I loved that feeling of wrapping myself in words.

Revisions take a lot of restraint, and that kind of restraint takes a lot of energy. Reviewing your work isn’t like writing it the first time, a kind of a blind run into the woods hoping that the faster you put down words, the more likely you’ll find something worth keeping. No, revisions require slowness and patience.

So, I read a page and set the page aside, then listen for the echo it leaves inside me. Are there ripples or is there utter stillness? It's a process of listening closely to how the words on the page make me feel and what they let me see and hear.

On some days it's like testing the fabric that comes off a loom—rubbing it between my fingers to pick up any rough spots or unexpected knots or seams.

On other days it's like sitting back and listening to a recording of my favorite record, trying to hear any scratches or squeaks that I don’t remember from when I wrote the words weeks or months ago.

Mostly, though, I remind myself that writing takes time. And patience. And faith in the process of putting words down, crossing them out, and starting again.


Pat McDermott said...

Faith in the process. That sums it up nicely, Bruce. Enjoy!

Bruce Black said...

Pat, yes, faith (and patience). Hope your work's going well.