“Revision is a very physical process, best done by hand, much like decoupage.” –me, 3:00 p.m.
I’ve never understood writers who work in offices. Or studies. Or ateliers, or at coffee shops. How do they keep from exploding all over the place, like this?
This is the what revisions look like. True revisions. This is the point where I pull everything together–the handwritten notes I’ve kept throughout the writing process, critiqued pages from my writers’ group, e-mails back and forth with my agent and editor, the copy-editor’s pink slips with her queries, my own brainstorms and despairing missives on Post-It notes…My mess just can’t seem to be contained in an office or cubicle. I would be embarrassed to take myself to a coffee shop for this.
Office supplies are key. I have to have really good mechanical pencils, highlighter markers in every color, bankers’ clips, paperclips (the coated variety) and those little sticky tabs that have no name, but which are used to mark pages. Oh, and a wastepaper bag. For obvious reasons, I am forbidden to ask myself, “Why did you spend days writing that scene if you’re only going to toss it out?” No computer, you’ll note. For me, revision is a very physical process, best done by hand, much like decoupage.
Setting is key, too. I’m always amazed by other writers’ offices. They all look so intimidatingly neat and organized. Anyway, I do have a study with shelves and stuff, and sometimes it’s even neat, but that’s not really where I end up doing the real work of writing. I end up all spread out all over the place, including the lounge room which is supposed to be kept spotless for Company. I also need the heather green cashmere blanket–a peek at the weather out the window explains it–and a mug of Mariage Frere Earl Grey French Blue.
I imagine that in a few hours, the scene will change. There will be more trash. An empty bag of cheese doodles and some chocolate wrappers. A big blue exercise ball for doing stretches. I will have gotten up to look through the telescope to see what the people on the mainland are watching on TV. The cordless phone is there, because when I get stuck, I’ll call a girlfriend or my parents or sister or my daughter, and we’ll talk until I’m unstuck. I will mutter and pace, unravel and re-weave blocks of narrative, cut and paste, flip back and forth, flip out. I will consume gallons of hot tea and more carbs than is humanly possible. I will yearn for “original recipe” Girl Scout Cookies with the trans fats intact. I will stay up late and get up early. I will write “The End” and then rewrite it.
And somehow, out of all this chaos, comes a novel.
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