My writing cycle
I have the pleasure of having some artistic friends. Uber peep Seth, especially, has been known to doodle, illustrate and design. He’s always tinkering and changing a project he undertakes. I’d remember times in college where some of us would want to grab a bite or hang, and Seth would be at his computer, fiddling with this or that, adding imperceptible changes.
We’d ask if he wanted to go and he’d say, “no,” preferring to stay and design. Days later, after similar agonizing nights, I’d see a glimpse of the near-final project and it would sparkle. Layer on layer of richness and complexity—it would be awesome! Still, he’d have to stop eventually, because an artist can go on tweaking something for an eternity.
I have the same never-ending dissatisfaction with writing. If I’m not careful, I’ll never actually finish anything, always wanting to edit and edit. I suppose that’s why I stick with these short blogs, I can just close the shutters on an entry and put it out of my mind. Were it a long essay or novel, I’d revise, revise, revise.
But I’ve been able to graduate into a bit of a cycle of disgust and acceptance, I think. And it’s taken me some years to cultivate, as I’ve had the tendency to eat my young in the past.
You see, back in college I started journaling. Mainly, it was at my own social awkwardness, angst, and spiritual frustrations (for the record, I have not sated any of these discomfiting conditions but have learned how to hide them). Back then, I’d write out a short bit or a poem (I had quite a knack for subtle meter back then, according to some of my high school teachers, bit I’ve lost it since); and then, in the midst of rereading it, I’d tear it to shreds.
Lord knows how many Salmons verses and paragraphs are disintegrating in landfills. I was thoroughly disgusted at my writing. I thought I sounded trite, foolish, naive, or just plain stupid. Honestly, I’m not sure what I was expecting—some flash of brilliance, maybe. When it wouldn’t show up, I’d sigh and toss what I had.
Fortunately, there were a couple of small notebooks that survived the purges (albeit very thin ones as the other pages were discarded). I probably meant to throw these away as well, but they, for some reason, made it into my keepsakes. I remember happening on both of them during my pack-up right before I joined the Army. I flipped through them and remembered going out into the Ohio winter evenings, finding a bench, and filling pages.
Some of the stuff wasn’t bad. Well, a few things, actually. There were crossed-out lines, edits, revisions, rewrites, but there was some cool stuff there. Now that the bits and poems had aged a bit, they had grown on me. It was then I discovered my writing cycle.
I have an intense dislike for anything that I write. My first reaction is to just torch it. Even this blog—blah, no good! Control-A and delete. I’d write a better one later!
But I don’t do that as often anymore. And, when I take the time to clicky-clicky on some of my archives (Talking Salmons is almost two years old, holy crap!), I like some of what I see. There’s hope for me after all!
I think that a little self-depreciation can be good for a writer, but if I let myself kill everything I write at its birth, then I’ll be horribly alone, without any archiving words or written hallmarks.
I suppose the point is to let something sit for a while, sleep on it for a time. Maybe then revisit it, because there are a few things I wrote way back when that I try to imitate now. Good thing they survived.