Wednesday, March 14, 2007

writing and rewriting

I have been very inspired and enlightened by Kay Sexton's fascinating blog post Rushing to Judgement and the comments from other writers and Kay's responses. I had never before considered the fact that "creating" a story and then revising/working on that story require two different parts of the brain. Kay even suggests writers don't both create and revise in the same physical location, because if you are in "revising" mode when you are creating or vice versa, this can cause trouble.

Wow. That really spoke to me. I was aware, as a journalist, that writing journalistic articles uses a completely different part of my brain than fiction-writing. I even went as far as to buy a second computer, a little laptop, dedicated purely to fiction-writing, just to keep the two worlds separate. But I had never looked at the fiction-writing process as being split into two. I had always sat down at my laptop, whether at home or in a cafe, and perhaps done a little creating of something new and then a little revising of some works-in-progress.

But when I am creating, I enter into that zone where I am completely focussed on what I am doing and my critical faculties are switched off, I am somehow letting the work come through me, listening to my characters speak and letting them tell me what the story is. It's partly meditative, and partly who-knows-what, that magical state when you aren't trying to write, you are simply opening yourself up to the flow.

But obviously - well, obvious now that Kay has drawn my attention to it - this state is absolutely no good at all for revising. if my critical faculties are off, or at least subdued, how can I look at my work with a critical eye? The ideal, I believe, is to be able to read your work dispassionately, as if it was someone else's, and critique it. Generally I am feeling kind of blurry and swept away after creating for an hour or so, how can I then revise, even if it's something else?

So, the other day I put this to the test and sat down with a couple of works-in-progress with my Revising Brain switched on. And it was great. I got so much done, because I was in the right space to analyse what I'd written and be pretty ruthless.

I am still a little nervous, though. I haven't written anything new since that day, and I am a bit worried that I won't be able to get back into Creative Mode. Completely irrational fear, i know. I just have to be a little organised in advance and plan what I am going to do in a particular session. Planning is not my best trait.

This fiction writing, this is hard work!

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