Sometimes I want some sort of magic.
Reading a great book or a stunning poem, I ache for the ability, the luck, the something, to write so well. I get hungry.
Do you feel this too?
We want a recipe. So we scour and scratch and ask, how, how, how, how? We know, and we don't, that there is no one answer. But we're desperate and so we search for suggestions, hints, directions.
I like this approach, from William Stafford in Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation:
For me, poetry is not like the jeweller’s craft . . . polishing, polishing, always rubbing it more and more. It’s more like the exhilaration of getting somewhere. It’s like running fast and your elbows and knees may not always be exactly right . . but you’re really getting somewhere. That’s the sort of feeling writing a poem has.
I know this feeling. When I'm in the zing of creating it feels both so good and so fleeting that I write faster and faster, chasing words across the page. Like Stafford, my mind is all elbows and knees.
But don't be fooled; Stafford was his own diligent editor. A rush of words, while exhilarating, is just a good start, as he shares here:
I feel revise means ‘more . . . more . . . more.’ The feeling at the time is not that this poem is bad, but that there must be other. And there must be more. So I drift back through the poem with something of the same welcoming feeling I had when I began. I may get different signals and change something, but it’s not changing things with a stern face. Rather, it’s a welcoming one.
I like the idea of approaching revision, an activity often met with dread and uncertainty, with a welcoming spirit. Because we often search for what to cut, it feels refreshing to wonder what can I add? When making soup, we don't take away; we add salt and seasoning. We let it simmer, then enhance.
What's your best recipe for writing and revising? How do you make soup?