Last November I began writing a short story, Who Won What? that evolved into the start of a YA novel. On January 6th my son was hit by a car (his second time), and my life was overtaken by the crisis. To attempt writing at that time was useless; as Anne Tyler says in an essay in the excellent anthology The Writer on Her Work, when the kids take over, you have to close the door on writing—and, much more rarely, the reverse.
Two days ago I finally dragged the story out of my “In Progress” folder (a euphemism if ever there was one). I forced myself to sit on my hands while reading, to do no revising, extremely difficult for the slash-and-burn editor I am. I just wanted to read it, to see if I liked it and wanted to finish it. I did. The next day I picked up where I’d left off in January—but though I managed to squeeze out a few paragraphs, it was rough going, devoid of joy, and it showed. With great sadness I prepared to relegate Who Won What? back to the “In Progress” folder with all the other aborted projects.
While out walking this morning, however, I suddenly remembered what I useed to do when my kids were growing up and my writing so frequently interrupted: Whenever I resumed, I’d go into revision mode, re-writing from the beginning up to wherever I’d stopped. By the time I worked my way through, I was back in the head space I’d been in prior to the interruption, and ready to move on.
Little did I know that my life circumstances were teaching me the best lesson one can learn about writing: Writing is Rewriting. Or, Revise, Revise, Revise! (Both said by eminent writers, whose identities evade me at the moment.)
Like every other mother on the planet, I’m accustomed to having my work interrupted. I complained about it constantly—and yet, looking back, I believe that motherhood taught me more about writing than I’d have learned any other way. Most of what I learned is intangible, but this is one lesson I can put my finger on with certainty: I learned how to write through frequent interruptions, long or short, simple or complex, painful or not.
Here’s something I’ve yet to learn: Quit Yer Bitchin’! Whatever we might lose or think we lost because of some life experience, we’re likely to gain something else. I’m trying to learn to complain less, as I return to writing. Who Won What? is one story that, howsoever it ends up, will not remain forever “In Progress”.
- One Interruption After Another (getitwriteblog.wordpress.com)
- Sitting on a Story – What Frustrates You Most About Writing? (wordsandwordsmore.wordpress.com)
- Julie Butcher: Ten Secret Strategies for Mothers Who Write: #2 Constant Interruptions? (poppycockpublishing.com)***HILARIOUS!
- A Wasted Writer’s Life (thewritelife1.wordpress.com)