In case you ever got the ridiculous impression that I am suave, let me clear that right up for you with a story.
In either 2007 or 08, I went to a live reading by David Sedaris. Perhaps you know him? Writes hilarious personal essays, often appears on the radio show This American Life, does an uncanny impression of Billie Holliday… Anyway, I first became a fan around 2003 when I read Me Talk Pretty One Day, and have giggled over several of his books since.
Naturally, I was excited to hear him read at Royce Hall in Los Angeles. I got to the theatre way too early and ended up milling around outside for a while. It was pretty empty – one of the few others there was this man wandering around by himself, eating a sandwich. There was something peculiar about him, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe it was the flagrancy of his sandwich-eating. Like who does he think he is, right? Just eating a sandwich, like, right there? Doesn’t he know he’s about to see a David Sedaris reading?
I’m fuzzy on the details, probably because I blew up in a cloud of awkwardness, but what happened next was the man finished his meal, went around chatting to people who were now arriving, eventually made it to me and the person I came with, talked with us while I was like “why is this stranger talking to us, what’s his deal,” and then finally introduced himself as…
… David Sedaris.
That’s the sound of one writer editing furiously.
You may recall this kaPOWerful post from early July, declaring my mission to finish my bulky edits by the time we leave for French Polynesia. By “bulky” I meant the rewrites, the new scenes, the untangling of plot-snarls, chunky stuff like that. Scary stuff like that… Before setting my goal, I had my list of must-edits locked in a cupboard while I cowered under a table.
What was I so scared of? I thought the scope of my revisions would be too daunting to summit, that I’d realize the book was one giant mess that I could never fix. But I reminded myself that big tasks are completed one small step at a time. I also realized that by stewing in my anxiety, I was making my anxiety last longer, so if I wanted to remove that anxiety I’d have to start editing.
I’m happy to say it’s been much less painful that expected!! I’m still in the midst of it, but here was my process:
Writers love notebooks. LOOOOVE notebooks. Writers send notes to their own notebooks that say: I LIKE YOU, DO YOU LIKE ME, CIRCLE Y N
Though I write my fictions via laptop, I possess plenty of paper pads for poly purposes. Say that a few times fast. Let’s take a tour, shall we?
“You don’t like this plot point? Let me explain why it’s good…”
“Well it’s not confusing if you remember that obscure hint from 10 chapters ago…”
“Actually, it IS funny, YOU just don’t get the joke!”
“LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.”
Ahh, defensiveness. All writers do it. Hearing critique can be tough, and sometimes it’s hard to resist rallying to our story’s side.