Writing is miraculous. Seriously, how does a small idea, a vague image, a couple of resonating words, or a setting turn into tens of thousands of words? And how do those words make readers laugh, cry, cringe, hide under the covers, rage, or fall in love?
I'm sure the answer doesn't lie in the writing so much as the rewriting.
"Books aren't written- they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it." Michael Crichton
When I sit down to write the first draft, I give myself permission to vomit on the page. After all, I can fix it later...as long as there's something there to fix. If I obsess over every word or phrase as I'm writing, I'll never get the story done. I'll spend years tweaking and playing until I've eviscerated the story driving those words.
So why, when I sit down to revise, do I have a little freak-out moment?
"Rewriting is like scrubbing the basement floor with a toothbrush." Pete Murphy
The enormity of the task - taking tens of thousands of words and making them worthy of another person's attention - gives me pause. Every. Time. Revision is seriously the biggest writing fear I have. I can start a thousand stories, but when I go back to the beginning to make sense of what I just vomited on the page, I fear the task.
Ninety thousand words. One hundred thousand words. That's a lot of words. And from the first to the last, I want perfection. The problem is that there are so many levels of perfection I need to nail. The images need to be solid. The writing needs to be fresh. The action needs to make sense. The characters need to grow and yet remain believable in their evolution. The story has to be layered but cohesive. And all this has to be accomplished in those words I've already spewed.This is huge - and what if I just make it worse?
"You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke." Arthur Polotnik
It's daunting, and I admire those who find the exercise fun or exhilarating. It's a challenge for me. But it's part of the work. It's part of the process.
Where there's fear, there's power. I like that saying, and I firmly believe it. So my task now, as I dive into the final round of revisions - big, juicy, story-altering revisions - is to maintain my sanity and work through the fear. I'll lean on my support system of critique partners and writing friends, and I'll sacrifice a few peppermint mochas to my muse and the writing gods. I'll even don a pair of Depends just in case the fear gets too gnarly. There's power here. Power to make those readers giggle or cry. Power to disappoint them when the story is over and they realize they'll have to wait to dive into that world again.
"Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain." Elie Wiesel
What part of writing do you fear? And how do you work through that to become a more powerful writer?