Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On the Validity of Subjective Experience

I posted my essay on why I write yesterday, and in it, I mention that I had had a horrible writing day. It really was. I have the tail-end of migraine, which makes me feel as if my brain is burning from the inside out and always makes me feel slightly out of focus and disorganized.

While I was writing, I kept thinking I had completely lost the voice of the novel, that I'd been reading too much of other people's fiction (I tend to read non-fiction when I'm actively writing) and their voices were coming through. The scene felt stilted, dead, and would probably have to be scrapped.

Reading through it yesterday before I took the pages to my professor, I realized it wasn't that horrible after all and then, today, rereading in preparation for moving forward in the novel, I'm thinking it's actually really, really good. Very strong. The voice is still there and the scene (which I'd cut mercilessly from the first draft and moved to a different place) works better in this stripped down version than it did in the longer one.

So I am actually a terrible judge of my own work in the highly subjective moment of its creation and this reminded me that the EXPERIENCE of the writing is completely separate from the QUALITY of the work. Reading through the novel, I can not find places where I say, "Oh, yeah, that was a really good writing day and it shows in the text." Nor can I find evidence of the opposite.

A workshop leader many, many years ago offered this advice: Write hot, edit cold. Which is very valuable advice, and probably why most writers put their work to the side for a bit (days, weeks, months) before going back to it and beginning to edit and revise.

I know this is another lesson I keep remembering and forgetting and relearning. But it's the main reason why you can't wait for inspiration to hit, you can't wait for the muse to descend and that perfect writing day to happen. You've got to be writing all the time, every day. Rain or shine. Because, in the end, good day or bad, it doesn't show up in the text. And thank goodness for that.

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