Friday, March 23, 2007

Always in Flux

I have decided today that no piece of writing is ever truly done. Once, I heard ZZ Packer read at Copperfields. She had a pencil in her hand and was marking up the text of her published book as she went. At the end, someone asked her what she was doing.

"I'm changing a few things to make them read better aloud next time," she said. That made me feel better, somewho.

I know that I have never read something I wrote again without wanting to change one thing. Not ever.

I think writing is a snapshot of where your brain was at the time you wrote the piece. Maybe you're in that same place for weeks or months at a time, but I don't seem to stay the same for more than a few days.

This is partly why I try to get those wild drafts written fairly quickly--because my own mind shifts and shuffles so quickly that often by the time I get to the end of something, my perspective has shifted dramatically, and the first half of the writing seems alien--distant from me. Did I write that? Why--what could I possibly have been thinking!

I do believe that other writers create works that are good enough that even though they could change something, it isn't really necessary. Not me, not yet. I have been re-reading old published short stories of mine, wishing I could update them. Switch out a word or a phrase, or update the emotional content of the story now that I've lived a little bit more.

I'm impressed with the illusion of seamlessness that great writers succeed at...because I think most writers go through this same journey, where the writing stops seeming familiar after awhile, or needs a tune up. It's hiding it from the reader that's the hard part.



At 10:33 AM, Blogger Patry Francis said...

I wish you could see the marked-up book I read from! I did exactly the same thing. I think that may be why so many of us don't want to reread things after they've been published. There's always SOMETHING to make us wince.


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