I love the process of creating, of writing something for the first time, however crappy the result. Spending hours and hours creating new worlds and filling them with people I love. And those I don’t.
On the other hand, I detest revising and I doubt the sincerity of those who claim that it is their favorite part of writing. I’m envious of those in my writing group who excel at it, accepting the group’s “constructive criticism” with aplomb then returning a few weeks later with a new (and generally improved) version. (Not certain that they love doing it, however.)
So I was excited to read an article on revising in the Sunday Boston Globe Ideas section. Craig Fehrman focuses on Hannah Sullivan’s book on the history of revision. At the very end of the article I finally got to the part I was hoping for, that revising is highly overrated and even a waste of resources (in my own words—you’ll need to read the article for your own interpretation).
Writing a blog satisfies my need to write without spending much time revising. Sort of writing in a journal, flow of consciousness, where the goal is to get my thoughts down on paper before they disappear. And before I have a chance to evaluate their quality. Edit out the emotion. The real me.
I would be happy to put the effort into revising my life however. Edit out the crappy part known as adrenal cancer. Return to the life I used to occupy, one where I went to work every day, put money for retirement into my 401(k) every paycheck, squeezed in time to write, kept busy every second of the day, and rarely got sick.
I say that but now that I’ve left that world, would I seriously want to return to it?
Now that I am retired, I should have plenty of time to write, right?
Instead I find myself in the same situation as some of my retiree friends—not enough time to squeeze writing into my day! I used to get more writing done before my cancer diagnosis when I was working a full-time job than I do now that I don’t have to leave the house to go to work. Not sure how that happens but I am sure there is a scientific explanation. Or more likely a psychological one. I will admit that I am more interested in what I can do to fix up the house than I am in writing. You can’t imagine how many painting projects I could be working on. I blame this on the nesting instinct, fueled by HGTV. Unfortunately I am constrained by my physical and energy limits, by my intermittent nausea, by the pain in my right arm resulting somehow from my surgery, as well as in my side where my 14 inch incision is a reminder of the cancer.
As if I needed one.
But when I am honest with myself I know it is more than that. It’s something about being able and willing to share my feelings, to commit to paper the emotions lurking inside my mind and my heart. For even though I am writing fiction, I can’t avoid incorporating who I am—don’t I need to do that for my writing to be worth the reader’s time?–and right now that person is focused on her mortality. I just can’t bring myself to let those feelings out of seclusion.
Which leads me back to my question–if I am a writer, and I mean a real writer, shouldn’t I want/need/crave to do just that?
Buying greeting cards used to be just a chore. Inevitably I would be rushing to the store at the last minute to get the cards that needed to go in the mail to Arizona or Virginia and coordinating so that Steve would be able to sign his name and add his smiley face for the grandkids. Now it’s that as well as an embarrassment.
You don’t see too many people in the card aisle at Wal-Mart with tears running down their cheeks. But I’m once again the exception. I never—or hardly ever—buy the humorous cards. Over the years Steve has learned not to buy them for me even though he started our married life thinking that the funny cards were preferable.
As a writer, I am amazed at the high quality of some of the verses in the Hallmark cards and I generally find one that expresses my sentiment accurately. Guess that means that I don’t really have discerning taste as millions of others must also buy the same cards that I do and find them exactly what they were looking for! Ever since my diagnosis I’m reminded by Hallmark that I am going to die, that at some point I will be leaving behind the people that I love, and that I need to let them know how much I love them while I still have the time.
It’s no different than before my diagnosis, after all, I am a mere mortal the same as everyone else in this world. Except it’s real now. I know that I am going to die and so every word that I share with my loved ones needs to ring true.
What if I never have another birthday or Father’s Day or anniversary to tell them how I truly feel? And if that is what I am trying to do, why don’t I take a blank piece of paper or a blank card and write down my feelings without relying on Hallmark to do it for me? I guess if the tears flow easily in the middle of a store what would it be like if I were to create my own greeting card in the privacy of my home?