Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Dark and Stormy Night of Revision

It has been cold and rainy here (January is California's one month of winter) and the dark, soggy weather has made me feel disinclined to work. Oh wait --- no ... no, I always feel disinclined to work, rain or shine or earthquake. Well then I really have nothing of news to report, then, do I? Carry on, carry on.

The cold rainy weather does inspire in me certain desires (besides a longing for decent municipally funded drainage systems, as the whole dang town is a puddle): I have cravings for a Victorian gentleman's library. You know the one: crackling fire in a polished grate, big leather armchair and ottoman drawn up to it, the muted colors of a turkish rug underneath and walls of rich mahogany bookcases stretching up to impossible heights and someone cute beside my chair to feed me the occasional bonbon.

(The only drawback is that I hate fine editions and even hardback books; I am a book whore and I don't mix wit de quality, no sir. All my books are dog-eared, broken backed and have cookie crumbs hidden in their creases. And the gaudy rainbow colors of my various paperbacks wouldn't go well with the elegance of the fine mahogany bookshelves. But, whatever, this is fantasy. I mean, obviously. I don't really want to kill a bunch of cows and deforest Sumatra and colonize the Orient for its goods and hire the local working class at exploitative wages to polish my andirons, but, I'm just sayin': it's a tempting fantasy when it rains, innit? But anyway.)

All this thinking about Victorian comfort brought to mind my favorite writer, Edward Gorey, and since I've been in the early stages of chapter-writing lately, I thought I'd share with you my favorite bits of his on writing. Now, I'm at the very preliminary dreaming-up-ideas part of writing, not this next part, revision, but it is still quite appropriate to my overall writing process. This is, of course, from The Unstrung Harp; Or, Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel.

I've mixed up the description and the pic here because wandering into the kitchen to "think" your way through a PBJ is such an important part of the process ---- I've become a bit more of a sitter than a wanderer lately, but much of my writing is still migratory. I've had to curb the number of migrations to the kitchen, but I used to have a writing circuit alternating the computer and the various destinations of refrigerator, bathroom, and mailbox (as in: please, please let me have contact with the outside world.) Now of course, I blog. More contact with the outside world, even less movement than before. Sigh. I foresee this causing problems somehow in the future.

The next step in writing, if you can make out the text here, involves reading what you have written and making decisions about it, an agony if ever I knew one. I should do that hand-to-the-head pose from melodrama more often; perhaps it helps with writer's block.

And, of course, the pain of actual revision, with or without a decanter of sherry:

As Mr. Earbrass points out, rewriting "is worse than merely writing, because not only does he have to think up new things just the same, but at the same time not remember the old ones." Mr. Gorey, I should add, has a wonderful gift for making lists, as the first sentence on that page shows. I do wish I was writing and being miserable in a large Edwardian (as in Gorey) country estate rather than a graduate-student apartment; it seems somehow more bearable. Or dignified. Or at least you have some spare rooms and a taxidermied fantod under glass.

Anyways, the rain is now a drizzle and some sun is actually peeking through across the way, so I suppose I should go work. Or eat something. Or put on something slutty and big sunglasses and drive my Hummer over some homeless people while tossing out reams of stock options. Because, after all, this is California.


September Blue said...

He must be mad to go on enduring the unexquisite agony of writing when it all turns out drivel. Mad. Why didn't he become a spy?

That is my EXACT thought process when I'm rewriting. Exact. (It is probably not a coincidence that my best procrastinating measure is watching huge doses of Alias while I 'let my thoughts settle'.)

Dr. Curmudgeon said...

This makes my day.

I'm actually also in the midst of a writing project, so I appreciate thinking about the process that surrounds the writing process. Good times!

Belle said...

Become a spy? That's the option? Crap. I have times when I think sewer cleaner would be easier.