Learning the art of revision is the opposite of whipping off a blog-post and sending before I even spellcheck. I like both, slowness of school work and speed/immediacy of blog-posts. I LOVE the results of revision in my serious-writing for school, but I worry that I spend so much time reading, and comparatively less time writing than Before Grad School. It’s just a slice of two years, I remind myself. I can do it and it will fuel my writing for a long time.
When I look at my for-school-serious writing last year, my essays fall into three categories: I wrote about my life as a kid, my year as a personal assistant to a blind woman, and about a sailing trip. After months of revision, the story about the sailing trip grew to perhaps 40 pages of stuff, with lots of repetition and multiple versions of each scene—in other words a mess. But the story kept nagging at me so I kept writing and rewriting the scenes that troubled me. Suddenly this one proverbial “three-hour tour” began to address how hard it is to live here in this geography we’ve chosen. The story “On a Halcyon Day” became a cautionary tale, a sort of “don’t ever even think about living here” tale. I’m almost ready to give that story a final overhaul—a writing friend suggested I might pull some sections of “Halcyon Day” to form another essay or two about life in Gloucester, life in my neighborhood. Those will be cautionary tales, too. I’m reckoning with the culture of New England, which will always be alien to me, and a little sad.
One of my favorite readers of ALL the versions of my Halcyon Day story is a fellow Hoosier and a fellow student, from some similar back road near my hometown. I knew she was finishing her masters degree and I invited her to visit our beautiful shoreline. She did. And now Emily is moving here. Didn’t I just say “never live here, turn back now, woe to all who enter Cape Ann, the beautiful but unaffordable set of rocks jutting into the Atlantic?” For a year I’ve been saying that, loudly and over the course of dozens of pages.
Before she met me, she’d never heard of the place. I will be thrilled to have a writing friend who understands my workload and courses. But I’m struggling against some ghosty sense of responsibility for the corruption of the nation’s youth. “Come here and you, too, can be bashed against these rocks for a winter.”
Reminder: Emily is made of more iron than appears to the eye. And the ocean is a soothing companion in winter. And the light here can’t adequately be described. Perhaps she will thrive, this brave friend of mine. She will certainly make my life easier, just by knowing my circumstances.
We’ll figure this out, somehow, the shift from long-distance writing friends to nearby local friends. She loads up the car Saturday and will be here by Sunday night, moving into her new place, and sharing a home-cooked dinner with my family. And maybe we’ll have a cup of coffee on Monday, and unpack a few boxes. We'll start the revision process, I guess. I like revision, though it's a boatload of work. I love the results and the process is life-giving, often. Explosive sometimes. A curiosity, in any case.
Between now and then, my children need to carve pumpkins and design costumes, and I need to find a sitter for parent-teacher conferences, and to finish reading another book for school. Then another.
Friendship, changes, holiday season, recover from my own travels (Connecticut last week, then New Hampshire for the weekend), soup season, homework. Much to think about. A few things still to unearth. Much to do. First another cup of coffee, with the book I’m reading, in the window.