Monday, August 25, 2008

Dig; don't fix

I've been having a lot of trouble getting started on my rewrite until today. I've been getting up each morning and psyching myself out, giving in to fear and then surfing the internet.

It's because I don't know what to do and where to start. I can see specific things wrong, but I don't know how to fix them.

It finally occurred to me over the weekend that I should do what I was doing in the first rewrite--which is to dig; not fix. Instead of trying to put a layer of smooth coat over, I should be excavating more.

It's another way of saying what I've said before, quoting Jesse Lee Kercheval and Jane Smiley's advice at different points--the rewrite process is a repeated crossing of the border between analysis and creativity. What I need to do now is turn off that analytical part and let the creative part go. I've been afraid to do that because I know it will make a mess--create more short-term problems than it will solve. Even if I can avoid that fear, it's hard to avoid the habit--the impulse to keep trying to find solutions, to anticipate how things are going to work.

But in the long-term, it's necessary to be in that zone of not caring if something is going to work. That's where the discovery happens.

What's discouraging is the feeling that I have been and may remain in that zone forever. I thought that's what the first rewrite was about (and I didn't accomodate myself easily to that after the first draft). I was expecting that by now I would be in the space where I work on shaping and fixing and patching.

I guess I'll just have to hope that the amount of digging necessary is somewhat less and in more obvious places than in the first rewrite so that it goes faster, so that I really do move through a chapter a week (not counting the month it has taken me just to get started.) I doubt it though.

So, today I opened the file, found the first moment where there is a lack of clarity related to something important to the character development, and tried to dig--tried to get into that creative space. I got in about 90 minutes of fair work.

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