Writing Is Rewriting

Writing is rewriting. I know that you are probably as sick of hearing that as I am but it is true. Every time I go back into these old papers I see things that I think I should fix or adjust. Got to tell you that sometimes it is exhausting. Sometimes I wish that I could look at my words and see perfection.

Perfection is like my Moby Dick. I am constantly at sea searching for my own white whale. Constantly scanning the horizon for flickers of hope or signs that perhaps today might be the day that I spot him.

It scares me a little bit. There are these whispers inside my head that tell me that it doesn’t matter how long, hard or how far I am not going to find that freaking beast. You might think that it is because perfection doesn’t exist but I would tell you that you are wrong. You are wrong because I have danced with perfection and been mesmerized by its fickle charms, but only for a moment.

That is because I have been privileged to have experienced a few perfect moments so I know they exist. I know that perfection exists.

My fear isn’t based upon anything other than this nagging feeling that I won’t recognize it. It might sound silly to you and seem contradictory. After all how can I say that I have experienced perfect moments and then suggest that I won’t recognize the perfect words. Well, I am not searching for just perfect words. Perfect words are like perfect moments. I can come up with perfect words.

I want to come up with the perfect story. I want to write a book that is so good that I cannot find a single thing that I want to change. I want to write a book that is majestic, magical and mystical.

And I want you to feel that. I want you to see that. I want you to share the adventure with me. But I haven’t made it there yet. I haven’t reached that place or scaled those heights.

Part of me says that it is ok to feel this way. Part of me says that it is healthy to have something that motivates and drives me. I need that push. I want that push. I can produce “good enough” with little to no effort. It seems shameful to not try harder so I do.

But perfection is so elusive yet I have this feeling that it is attainable. The contradiction there just kills me. I stare at it, study it and ask myself if it wouldn’t be easier to label myself a masochist and find some leather clad honey to beat me over the head.

Side note. I wonder about people who seek out a beautiful master or mistress and ask to be punished. Do they retain their beauty or after a while do you look at them and see an ugly, mean creature who has been given authority to treat you poorly.

Well, I am not a shrink nor am I paid ridiculous amounts of money to play on screen, on air or on stage so I’ll have to let that question go for now. The nice thing about being a writer is that if I want I can answer it later on. All I need to is create a character who has the authority to provide an answer and voila, it is answered.

One of the many lessons that I have learned from the writing is rewriting creed is that it is useful to save my work. I am not talking about saving files so that you don’t lose them to a virus or computer disaster of some sort. No, I am talking about the value in saving rough drafts of my work. I save almost everything. I do it because I have learned that more often than not I can take pieces and portions of those drafts and integrate them into other pieces that eventually published.

That last remark is one of my favorite tricks of the trade but there is a caveat to it that my students know well. You can’t keep using and reusing the same pieces because eventually your readers will notice and they will not like it. If you are writing for a newspaper or a magazine you can count on your editors noticing it and they won’t react favorably.

You can count on that biting you in the ass. It is not unlike calling a woman by the wrong name. You may manage to blow that by her once or twice but if she notices there will be hell to pay. And they always notice.  That reminds me that I should write a column or a book about the things that women notice and why most of it is trivial, useless and a waste of time.

Hah, I am laughing just thinking about the reaction that would get. I could tie it into some treatise about how it has become common for women to make fun of men and portray us as buffoons and airheads. That might work with a lot of people but I can guarantee that I would get a telephone call from my mother who would tell me that two wrongs don’t make a right.

I can’t tell you how often I heard that growing up. I sometimes responded by saying that two rights could make a wrong or a trapezoid but no one ever laughed. Mom said that I came up with that when I was about eleven. It really isn’t particularly funny or witty but it has stuck with me all these years. That is another trait of good writers- we remember things.

Some of us remember things far too well and with far too much clarity which is probably why thoughts about that damn woman keep floating around inside my skull.

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