Monday, March 28, 2005

Editing is like washing baseboards

Editing just is not the same as writing.

When one writes, this creature emerges, writhing and emitting gutteral sounds. One grasps the beast by its malleable form and shapes it, squeezing here and pushing matter there, giving it recognizable appendages and wrenching its mouth into a certain grimace to give it the appropriate voice. At the end, one shakes one's hands to loosen them, stands back, and admires the thing that did not exist before that creative act, a wonder of the subconscious given words and space and -- for a while -- one's rapt attention.

Then the poor thing sits around on one's desk examining its fingernails and tapping its foot, wondering when it will ever see the light of day, when its file name will be called up, when it will be printed or published. It looks at its garb and sighs, wishing for better times.

Finally one takes note of its irritation and despair and drags the creature back into the crucible of creation. "Who the hell are you?" one asks it in disgust, and begins pulling off the clay of its nose, the clumsy left ear, the third arm, tossing the bits into the Trash Can. "What was I thinking?" one asks oneself, and settles down for a prolonged time, to edit: to tear apart the awkward elbows and reduce the unessential padding on the hips. One re-examines the plot, re-forms the plot, and adds clay to make the creature's shoulders stronger to withstand the weight of the story's conclusions.

No, wait, the chin is still too weak. No, dammit, that looks knock-kneed from this angle. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS BLASTED HAIR?? One mashes one's creation about until it looks like the Venus de Milo, and then wonders if one really has to throw those graceful, lovely arms away. Isn't there some way to reattach them?

Editing is so necessary, but how I hate it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At first I was amused that you sounded like Dr. Frankenstein discussing his creature.
Then, I was impressed that managed to discribe so well the Frankenstein experience.
Then I became a bit concerned that you and Frankenstein think so much alike.
I shall not be reading any of your works while I am anywhere near a cliff.