Sunday, October 27, 2013

About Those First Drafts

I have an aversion to anything I've written until it's fermented to the point of being nearly forgotten (or fetid). When I write, I can't see the loveliness of trees, it's a dense forest of things to prune or uproot.

Because I layer and revise my work so much, it loses structure and perspective. It's not a case of split infinitives, it's a cargo container of split sentences, split paragraphs, lost wrenches and 2x4s. Then, the original sequencing of an idea goes all to hell in surprising ways. Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not.

There's something to be said about keeping first drafts, but because my sole writing outlet these days is this blog, first drafts have become a thing of the past. No more archaeology. Even as I write this, I've already revised it several times. Changed tenses, tossed particles and phrases, replaced verbs.

I like to think that with all this revision process, my writing's improved. It's a continual learning curve, but sometimes I wonder if I should also adhere to the original integrity of the first draft. FIrst impulse. Best impulse. After all, when I take photos, it's usually the first image that's the best one. The rest are merely insurance. Revision is like opening a vein, new ideas emerge.

Poetry tends to come in, line by line. It's a fleeting, yet insistent voice. It comes in simile by metaphor. No wonder the ancients thought the gods were speaking through them. It's a translation process. It also generally arrives at inopportune times. Like when I'm shampooing my hair or am in a traffic jam—clutch, shift, brake, scribble. (Scribbling casualties include spilled tea, flying roast chickens, and upside down bags.)

Poetry's odd arrival also makes me realize that the voices in my head are constantly making comparisons. Like not so lucid dreaming. Whether a scientific, or poetic bent, my mind needs to constantly catalogue things. Even if it doesn't make sense. If this is to this, then, that is to that. I imagine poetry's arrival to be something like autism or Asperger's syndrome. Am I an OCD writer? Aren't we all?

I used to worry about those odd comparisons (which I sometimes unwittingly utter to Neil, who writes them down and sometimes gives them back later), and the voices. Having a mom who was nuts doesn't help, but that's merely my inner child anxiety speaking. Dyslexia doesn't help. Or, it does, but the payback's brutal.

My prose writing comes in all warty and flawed. A veritable jungle. First impulse is generally in need of some heavy bushwhacking. Or the woodman's axe. Make that a chainsaw. Hold the blood. I already gave.


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