distraction no.99

Nova Ren Suma | On Writing & Writing Distractions

Not an Author Newsletter… something else.


This weekend was spent racing toward two deadlines. They were both met by Sunday afternoon, and by then I was spent. I didn’t get a chance to work on the revision to my story, due now in about a week. I couldn’t face it just yet, if you want the truth—I’ve gotten used to being edited on these other assignments, but I’ve felt separated from the writing I’ve been doing these past months. A phantom has been writing it for me (hence it being called ghostwriting). It doesn’t matter what the editors want me to do or stop doing or do differently. I’ll do whatever changes are asked. But here I am up against edits to my own work, written by my own self and not a ghost, and I just didn’t have the energy to face up to it this weekend. Tonight I will start on it. It will take me a while. When I’m doing the ghostwriting, the paragraphs flow out fast. But when I am doing my own story, one single paragraph could be worked on for an entire eight-hour stint. I read it, add something, read it again, change something, read it, rework the opening, read it, add a new word, read it, change the last line, read it, look for a new adjective, read it, change commas, read it, write three new sentences in the middle, read it… Oh, you get the point. I made a sculpture in high school art class that was a lot like my writing process: we were given a chunk of white plaster and asked to make something with it. Some people made plans, took measurements, were very exacting in their chops. Others drew pencil lines on the plaster chunk to have a sense of where to start. I remember taking off a big hunk at first—I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to make—then in the tiniest of increments I chopped my way in. I would do a tiny little chop, step back and look at it, do another tiny chop, step back and look at it… It took forever. I was never satisfied with it. There always seemed to be something down in there, under whatever layer of plaster I was on, the real shape that I was looking for. Every time I stepped back to take a look I thought I would see it. Then the project ended and I had to turn it in and it’s still not finished, if you ask me. I still don’t know what it was supposed to be. My short stories are like that: I can see them in the distance, down under the words on the surface. I just need to get to them… And every word or comma I carve into it is getting closer. So, really, I doubt a week is enough time for me to do this revision. Yet at the same time, the revision isn’t of my choosing, so I’m hoping I can use my experience from learning how to take direction this past year and just do it as if it’s anything else. I just need to get started.

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