"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When Does the Final Draft Actually Appear?

"True genius shudders at incompleteness"--Edgar Allan Poe

Writers: ever written something that you thought was absolutely GENIUS until you saw it again the next day and then hated yourself and were subsequently humiliated by your poor lapse of judgment?

I call that having a one-night-stand with your first draft. It's just ugly.

But what if it's not your first draft, but more like, an entire book? I had a mini-meltdown the other day before emailing my first book, Little Earthquakes, off to a friend to read. I reread almost 70 pages and nearly decided to torch it, blot it out of my memory like a victim of incest. There were only a few redeeming lines in what seemed like endless pages of amateur, uneducated, undisciplined, prose-posing-as-poetry pieces of narcissistic garbage. I emailed them to her but went home that day feeling sad and depleted like a middle-aged actress who has realized that she will not be getting calls to play the ingenue any longer.

I shared this feeling with my spouse and he just shook his head: "But, you won a prize for that book. A PUH-RIZE!" He articulated loud and slow, as though I didn't understand what the word 'prize' meant.

Writers are notorious for this, or really, creative people are notorious for this. The work is never done. The finished product is always as scary as first draft.

I remember reading an article once where Nicole Kidman said it was painful for her to watch herself acting: she was constantly critiquing herself, judging her every move. I thought to myself, this dumb broad, I'd LOVE to be sitting in a theater somewhere in a couture gown watching myself act in some movie where I was paid millions of dollars to play pretend and kiss some hot actor, give-me-a-break! Now I have a lot more sympathy for the botoxed Aussie.I understand her pain completely.

Being creative publicly means willingly placing some part of your body on the chopping block for others to decide whether or not that appendage is worth saving. It's pulling up your sweater for others to see the breast cancer scars and mawed tissue and deciding if it is profound statement of truth or just grotesque. But its a beautiful thing, this truth, this grotesqueness. Writing and creation and carnage and love and first-draft or Pulitzer Prize book, it's all the same. It all has its place and function. So what if people can my writing?

It helps me to remember that I am learning, that I am still new to it all.

I would never judge my daughter for not running after barely learning to walk. I'd tell her to take it slow: steady her gait, plant her heels, try the stairs, master the stroll, running's bad for the joints.

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