by Elan Barnehama
I like the revision process. It gives me a chance to see what I was thinking when I wrote that very lousy uneven not so good rough draft. Re-vising, re-seeing, re-thinking, re-visioning allows me to make some sense of what my characters have done and then I get a do-over. I can change dialogue, add layers, and discard scenes and cut characters that have wandered into the wrong story. Some days I come home and wish I could rewind the clock and revise things that I’ve said earlier.
When I revise, I try to see before I think. I read what I’ve written and look at the facts, look at what happened, at what I’ve written, before I start jumping or drawing or otherwise tumbling toward conclusions. Gradually I see the connections, some intentional, some accidental (my favorite), and I try to build on them, add to them. This process is not editing. Feedback is good, but for me, it’s important to keep the editors—internal and external—at bay for a while longer. When I’m revising, I need to keep the process messy. I need to keep the let the irrational, the foolishness, the madness do their thing.
I get a lot of material for revising when I’m out running. I don’t listen to music when I run and I don’t often run with others. I enjoy the lack of focus. I enjoy letting my mind rest as my body carries me along. Sometimes when I’m running and I get a rush of ideas I wish I had a chip in my brain that could record my thoughts and play them back later. But I’ve resisted carrying a tape recorder because I like being unplugged. A tape recorder would change everything. It would give me a purpose and having no purpose is the purpose. But that doesn’t mean I don’t grab pen and paper as soon I enter the house and furiously write down as much as I can remember. And on good days, I can even read what I’ve scribbled.
I’m a fan of being bored. I’m a believer in doing nothing. Being bored gets a bad name. Being bored is not the same as finding something boring. Certainly not the same as being boring. Or affecting a snobbish boorish bored demeanor. Think magically bored, wonderfully bored. For me, it’s letting my mind be at rest. It doesn’t have to be while running. The same state can occur while walking down a crowded Manhattan sidewalk, or along a deserted country road, or through a noisy museum, or while sitting in a café, or leaning against a lamppost. As long as you allow your mind to wander without purpose and let your thoughts explode.
Published October 18, 2012 by Women and Words