Free Legwarmers

I have a writing routine which borders on compulsively ritualistic. I always write first drafts with pen and paper. Then I type that up. Then I read it through and decide whether to develop the idea further or scrap it. If it’s worth re-working, I make an outline and decide if the order in which things occur needs to be changed. Usually the events in my story need to be reordered somewhat so I read through a hard copy with a pen, making notes about things that will need to be changed so that the new order makes sense. Then I get to work re-writing. I give myself more latitude at this stage to flesh out things since the framework is set, but I usually don’t really add in many details until the next re-write.

Yikes, reading that last paragraph made me feel really weird, like maybe everything I write is unread-ably overwritten. Okay, as an experiment then I will just type whatever pops into my head for the rest of this essay and not edit it at all.

Cutting is not problem as long as I don’t care how long my finished piece is. My instinct is to tend toward brevity, so I often whittle down a written piece to around 65% of its original unedited length. As for setting goals for editing, I really don’t have to force myself much because it is an enjoyable process for me. The hardest part for me as a writer, is squeezing out that first draft. After I have something to work with on paper, the editing and re-writing stages are pretty fun. Polishing something and making it better seems possible whereas creating something out of nothing strikes me as more intimidating and unlikely to be successful.

I just threw away my notebooks from National Novel Writing Month 2011. I had filled up five spirals. Perhaps the gratification, for me, is in the process of writing more so than the finished product. Don’t worry, I typed all my notebooks before tossing them so nothing was lost except for the paper original. With the amount of space that one project took up on my shelf in notebook form, I don’t believe I could ever have enough room to save all my writing. Besides writing, I spend much of my free time knitting. Knitting is nice because it keeps my hands busy while I think about ideas for writing. A big part of writing for me is stewing over things until I know the most appropriate way to express them. Perhaps appropriate is the wrong word, I mean the most honest way.

In knitting there is this idea of “process knitting.” It means that a person doesn’t want to keep the finished object, they just wanted the challenge of completing it. These people usually give away what they knit. To some extent I am the same way with writing. I don’t have a strong desire to have other people read what I’ve written, but I do have a strong desire to write it in the first place.

That reminds me, I have three pairs of legwarmers that I made that I want to get rid of because they were just first drafts. If anyone wants them, let me know.

Muriel is the creator of 'Documinutes: 60 second documentaries' and a contributor to the podcast 'This Manic Mama.'

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