Revision, Re-seeing. Writing, Re-writing.

Photo by the author

Taking a breather from preparing all my baggage (in both senses of the word) to head off to Vermont Studio Center, I looked up from my manuscript pages just now to see this jumbled geometry of umbrella, roof, sky, walls, stairs, and green. Now, it wasn’t as though some great revelation hit me, and I haven’t often thought of my city’s tight spaces as particularly awesome. But it did feel as though I was seeing something I’ve looked at hundreds of times in a way I hadn’t quite seen it before.

Draft No. 3 of my current novel-in-progress can feel like that at times. My few trusted readers have helped me re-see—and then revise—which is the only way I can get anywhere with rewriting.

Make no mistake: Draft No. 3 is a rewrite. First of all, half of Draft No. 1 is gone, cut, sacked. Along with losing that thread of the story, a major character now sleeps in the proverbial ‘drawer.’ (Every writer I know has such a drawer.)

Working on Draft No. 3 has made me alternately demoralized, cocky, joyful, and utterly depressed, sometimes within the same paragraph. There are days I wake up thinking about my protagonist and ready to work, and days when I’d rather alphabetize my spices or violently deadhead every plant in the garden than face the page with its awful blinking cursor. I am fortunate in faithful friends who cheer the former and drag me from the doldrums of the latter.

Part of this long slog has been taken up with health challenges I hope to never meet again. Over the last two years, a series of rough beasts have slouched toward various body parts to be born, and none of these beasts have been pals. My plan is to hang onto what I wish to call an upward swing of good strong progress on that front. 

The pieces of this story will continue to fall into place as I spend the next month working through the rewrite at Vermont Studio Center.* I just have to look up once in a while, and recognize the jumbled geometry as mine.

*Thank you, Illinois Arts Council and VSC.