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Posts Tagged ‘self-editing’

Editing is hard.

Editing a work you love is very hard.

Editing a work you love and that carries great personal weight is more than very hard. It’s an emotional maelstrom, pulling you deeper with every pass, dragging you farther into the vortex of its intensity, capable of drowning you at any moment.

And poetry—my poetry—carries great personal weight.

Which is why I’ve been a spiritual shipwreck this week: I’ve been editing a collection of poems and vignettes, gleaned from my writings of the past two decades (and a bit more). Some of them have appeared here; many have not. All are, for me, distillations of power, and each one—be it a three-line haiku, a twelve-line sonnet, or a 43-line piece of free verse—is surrounded by a nimbus of context that exists only in my heart.

Nothing I write can be as powerful to a reader as it is to me. This is the nature of writing: it is an imperfect means for the transference of memories and emotions and thoughts, but it’s the best means we have. Naturally, you do not know why I wrote a particular poem, but I certainly do, and editing it, reading it over and over, even if it’s only a check for proper capitalization, even if it’s to ponder a comma at line’s end versus a period, I must perforce relive the moments, the weeks, sometimes the years that surround that poem’s inspiration, which means I must also relive the grief, the joy, the anger, the frustration, the ineffable beauty that I hoped to have captured in the amber of my words.

Despite this psychic exhaustion, I’m chuffed about this little project, as it is, in some ways, a turning point. Where I used to present myself solely as a writer of novels, this is my way of acknowledging that, as a poet, I’m not displeased with my work, and that, in this regard at least, I’m still growing as a writer.

Proofs will come in tomorrow’s post and I’ll get a chance to see how well my editing and layout skills have served me. I’ll also get yet another chance to read—this time with a proofreader’s eye—the four dozen pieces I’ve chosen for this collection.

And then, most likely, I’ll sit in the evening’s fading warmth, sip some wine, and think of something new to write.

Already, I have some ideas.

k

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Summer is not my most productive season for writing. There are too many distractions—gatherings, to-dos, house guests, falling into an overheated swoon—and this summer has had more than its normal share, what with the passing of companion animals, a switch from office-office to home-office, and most recently, a week of sitting bleary-eyed, head-achy, and miserable, waiting for the smoke from wildfires to clear.

Also, I was editing a book.

Alas, not one of mine.

I have the honor of being a beta-reader for a good friend. He’d completed his manuscript and was in need of a fresh set of eyes. Editing someone else’s work is always an opportunity to learn, for me. Whether it’s through analyzing a passage that works well or through hitting a bump in the prosaic road, reading another’s early draft is a great way both to learn new things and to reinforce lessons learned long ago. (more…)

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Le crayon rougeOops. Sorry.

By “writing to the market” I didn’t mean “gearing your work-in-progress to match current market trends” (which, I feel compelled to add, unless you are a spectacularly fast writer with a very good agent, is a fool’s game).

I mean “writing to the market’ as in writing copy for marketing. Which is what I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks.

You see, my wife opened a business. (more…)

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Stack of BooksI was about halfway through Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Goldfinch, when I stumbled while reading the following:

Whenever he was gluing up a piece of furniture it was my job to set out all the right cramps, each at the right opening, while he lay out the pieces in precise mortise-to-tenon order—painstaking preparation for the actual gluing-and-cramping when we had to work frantically in the few minutes open to us before the glue set, Hobie’s hands sure as a surgeon’s, snatching up the right piece when I fumbled, my job mostly to hold the pieces together when he got the cramps on (not just the usual G-cramps and F-cramps but also an eccentric array of items he kept to hand for the purpose…

The reason I tripped over these lines is due entirely to the use of the word cramp. It popped me out of the story, puzzled me, and continued to nettle me through the ensuing days, enough so that it engendered this blog post.

The stages of my reaction were as follows: (more…)

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