Twice Born

Did you ever have the experience of rereading something you’d written some time ago and feeling surprised about what you’d come up with? Anyone who’s been writing for a while knows the feeling — revisiting a piece is often like reading something a stranger has written. Having some distance from your work allows you to be more objective about it. You can view it more clearly: warts and all. And luckily, you may also find that some of what you’ve written works really well — that you still love it.

I just recently had this experience myself. I pulled out a piece that has been languishing in a drawer. Called “September 1776,” it’s an essay I wrote in the wake of  9/11. I was obsessed by the piece for quite a while and even piqued the interest of a major magazine. But when I pulled the story again, I instantly realized that wasn’t very  focused. I was trying to do too many things at once and so it lacked a strong narrative through-line. Since the story means a lot to me and I believe other people might feel the same way, I’ve decided that I’m going to take it apart and see if I can reconstruct it more coherently.

This revision isn’t going to be easy: I’m going to have to give up some ideas that, even now, I feel very attached to, but just don’t fit. To get this process going, I’m going to use some advice from Natalie Goldberg’s wonderful book, Writing Down the Bones. In a chapter called “Rereading and Rewriting,” she says, “…when you go over your work, become a Samurai, a great warrior with the courage to cut out anything that is not present. Like a Samurai with an empty mind who cuts his opponents in half, be willing to not be sentimental about your writing when you reread it. Look at it with a clear, piercing mind….See revision as ‘envisioning again.’ If there are areas in your work where there is a blur or vagueness, you can simply see the picture again and add the details that will bring your work closer to your mind’s eye.”

Sounds like a plan!

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply