Monday, April 12, 2010

Drafting, pt. 6

Time: 10:16 a.m.
Music: A Process in the Weather of the Heart | Radere
Mood: turned-in, turned-over, overturned

I have just sent out what will officially be the final version of my thesis, and it's not all that fulfilling (akin to being asked what it's like to "be 25" on your 25th birthday). The understanding this whole semester is that Thesis does not equal Book. And while this has made the process of revision far less scary, as there was never really any threat of failing, it has made the idea of finishing anything, ever, seem like a red herring sipping ambrosia from a holy grail.

While I made significant changes in the structure for this revision, changed some endings, and in one case wrote a new chapter, the main thing I took away from the experience is that there is much work to be done. With teaching and being in a fiction class this semester, the real revisions I need to make seem impossible to tackle. When revising a draft of a book--where the 'anything goes' style of original creation is no longer allowed--it takes a significant amount of time to get back into the book's voice. You have to sort of hypnotize yourself, casting the spell that you're not at your computer wearing PJ pants at two in the afternoon, but that you're actually an important writer with something worth showing an audience. Getting over the self-consciousness of this idea takes at least an hour of staring into space.

In order to auto-hypnotize, my process often involves: listening to incredibly long experimental songs, the more ambient the better, through big headphones--in this case, earbuds would be like a dutch boy's fingers trying to dam an exploding aqueduct. Then, I often find myself overcome by the speed of thought, so I turn everything off and plant my face in the couch. N has walked in on this a number of times. "What are you doing?" she asks. "Duh. I'm writing."

It can take hours for me to beat to papyrus pulp that self-conscious voice that loops, "I'm writing. A book. I'm writing a book," over and over. When I do, it will most likely take another few hours for a paragraph to emerge. It won't be until the next day that I can start expanding beyond that. So, even though I'm still in an MFA program, doing what I love, and being able to work from home for a majority of my week, it is not a schedule that allows for uninterrupted workweeks where I can manacle my mind with heady music or, stuff my face into a cushion.

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