Saturday, March 21, 2015

Highlights from a Low-Key Writer's Week

Yesterday I had lunch with a writer friend, who also was once a student of mine.  We met long ago, when I taught upper level British Lit for 2 heavenly years at Florida Atlantic University.  We've stayed in touch, done readings together, supported each other in all sorts of ways.

She's been writing her first novel, and six weeks ago, she sent me a rough draft.  I made some comments and suggestions, and this week, she sent me a revision.

I rarely see revisions that make me believe so much in the revision process.  Most of my students move from rough draft to finished draft without making significant changes.  I, too, am guilty of not pushing myself to see if a draft is really finished.

My friend, however, made significant and revelatory changes.  She got rid of all sorts of scenes that bogged down the forward progress of the plot.  She's writing a historical novel, and there were many scenes in the rough draft that seemed to be there so that the research that she did wouldn't be wasted.

In the revision, those scenes are gone.  In the revision, the plot no longer meanders.  Those characters have something to lose, and the stakes are high.

My week as a writer this week has been a bit more low-key because I've had a lot of other duties to take care of.  But it's important to remember that even in a low-key week, there are many moments of delight.

Even in a week of other duties, one can be thrilled by a friend's revision success.  I also got two manuscripts ready for contest entries.  I got two packets of poems in the mail.  I wrote 2 poems, one of which I didn't like too much but might have potential, and one about Zacchaeus, the tax collector who wants to see Jesus and climbs a tree.  Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus' house for dinner, and Z. is so changed by the encounter that he vows to repay everyone whom he has cheated 4 times over.  We assume this change is permanent, but my poem shows that he goes back to his old ways:  there are financial difficulties and an emergency, and he meant to reform forever, but he couldn't.  I continued to write blog posts, both for my two personal blogs and for the Living Lutheran site.

I'm reminded of this post that appeared on Leslie Pietrzyk's blog, a post which reminds us that doing just one thing to promote and advance our work each day will be fruitful: 

"In the past, I’ve handled Po-Biz randomly, working up a head of steam and then sending out queries or applications in spurts—with long fallow periods between times when I tried to build up the energy to focus on administrative matters once again. This past January, I made a resolution to try a new tactic.

For the entire month, I did one piece of Po-Biz per day. I never did more than one thing, so it was never overly burdensome, and even small things counted. So one day I might merely send an email to a person who organizes a reading series, and the next day I might take on the larger task of sending a new book manuscript to a competition or applying for a residency at an artists’ colony. By the end of the month, I’d done an extraordinary 31 things."

I do long for huge swaths of time where I can accomplish so much.  But it's good to remember how much I can do even with just a very tiny bit of time.

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