By Deborah W. Yoho
How do you know when you are finished with a piece of writing? I can’t seem to figure this out. I was flabbergasted when my new friend Ilmars announced that he had “finished another novel”.
I had to ask, “You mean you are finished with the first draft? Did you write it straight through?”
“Yes,” he answered, “now I will go back and edit it.”
I wish I could do that, write straight through. I can’t compose a sentence without editing it as I go. (I just changed the last sentence to substitute compose for the word write. But I’m not at all sure the result is better.) Ilmars’s method seems much more efficient.
Fifteen years ago I wrote a short self-help book. At one point I decided I was finished with it. But when I pulled it out six months ago with the idea of actually publishing it myself, it was clearly not ready. Here I am now still fooling with it.
Is writing an art form, an activity suited to spontaneity and experimentation? Or is it more like a craft, the result of carefully honed skills perfected only by consistent practice? If it is an activity to be practiced, I have surely had plenty of that! Yet the more I practice, the more unsure I am about my ability to put two words together sensibly.
There is something profoundly visual about how I go about this activity. So often when writing, I stop, cock my head sideways, stare at the print, and ask myself, “Does that look right?” Look right, not sound right.
When I am reading, the words become sounds in my head. Authors speak to me, rather than write to me. I think I’ve got this all backward, or inside-out, or something.
So I’ve decided to tack into a new direction. I’ve bought a digital recorder, and I will try to speak my thoughts “straight through” before putting them to paper.
I’ll let you know whether or not this works. But I know what you’re thinking, and I agree. The written word is not the same thing as the spoken word. Many articulate speakers are not good writers.
Perhaps what I am after is to match my written words with the pictures in my head. What I see in my head, I think, is what motivates me to write. I want those thoughts to have life!
Hmmm, maybe writing is about visualization after all.