Friday, March 29, 2013

Writing as a Peanut Butter Sandwich

This is not very profound, but if it helps a writer (or someone trying to love and understand a writer) out there, I'll be pleased.

Stephen Miller, one of my profs, talking to me about writing my dissertation told me, "Don't worry about editing too much, just get the volume first.  Just push that text out first.  Then you can edit." That sentiment was seconded by Robert Anthony Siegel, who led the novel writing workshop I attended last summer in Iowa.  He even went so far as to cite examples of creative writers who write blindfolded or with a cover over the computer screen to resist the urge to edit until they have a sufficient amount of stuff out there to work with.  The word processing capability of the computer makes us compulsive editors, moving text here and there and correcting syntax and word choice.  And we do that because we can.  The mechanical process of editing is less taxing than the creative process of taking what is in our hearts and souls and minds and putting it on the page.

Maybe writing for most of us is like making a peanut butter sandwich.  You have to accept that the first lump you get out of the jar and put on the bread is not ready to eat.  The lump may be too much (you glutton!).  It may not be enough and you'll have to go back to the jar.  But you have to start with the messy lump before you do the careful spreading to get the peanut butter all the way to the edge with a uniform depth of peanutty goodness all over the slice of bread.

You've got to accept the messiness and the process of cleanup that follows.  And you can't stare at the jar and the bread and think the p.b. onto the bread.  You've got to put that lump down.