Of hair and skeletons

As I continue on my Great Revisioning Adventure, I’m finding myself moving slowly. When last I left you, I was coming to terms with how growing as a writer meant looking at The Lost in new ways. It was good, and a little exciting, and I was enjoying myself.

Lately I’ve been thinking about hair. My daughter’s been struggling with the woes that befall long thick hair in winter, namely, giant snarls where her coat and hat meet her neck. Working them out takes time, and patience, on her part and mine. It makes me think of Ash and Dust, of Jaz braiding her adopted daughter’s hair and giving her a story with each braid. I’m largely mute while working on the snarls, because I’m not someone who tends to have an ongoing patter of conversation.

All of which is not the reason I haven’t been writing. Her snarls are bad, but not that bad. No, it’s more that working on her hair and working on The Lost feel much the same at this point. What I am finding, in the novel and in most of my writing, is a certain level of frustration with what I want to do and what my abilities are.

When I started writing again (yes, that old story), I was giddy. Whenever I finished something, I more or less ran around and shouted “LOOK, IT CAME OUT OF MY HEAD!!!” Three exclamation points and all. I loved it, and I thought very little about how I wrote, just did it and was shocked as hell that anyone else actually wanted to read it.

I wish I still lived in that place. I don’t, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When I’m working on entirely new stories, it’s less of an issue. (Sort of–there is that one story that wants to be two stories woven into one, with two different worlds and two different tenses, and two different POVs, and…ARGH. I want to be so much better than I am.) Once you learn how to make a roux, you generally incorporate that understanding into your sauce-making, rather than relearning it each time you cook.

But returning to work on The Lost, that’s something else entirely. Back when I wrote it, when I wrote all my earlier stories, I did everything by intuition. That’s part of what made it so much fun. I just wrote things as they came to me, and hoped that they fit together in the end.

Stories have skeletons, though. They have layers of bone and viscera and skin. Hopefully those things aren’t obvious when you’re reading, just as you don’t stare at your cat and think about intestines. (Well, maybe you do, but I’m guessing most people don’t. That’s right, right? Is this another place I need more education?). If you’re me, and if you’re working on something you love, something you wrote years ago, and you’re revising it in a major way, those hidden pieces are suddenly very important. They are, in fact, essential to understand if the refinished product is going to hold together.

Which brings me back to my daughter’s hair. Long slow work, because I love my daughter and her head is sensitive, so I work out the snarls strand by strand, while humming, or listening, or dreaming. Sometimes the slowness is almost more than I can bear, but I do my best to stay the pace. The Lost has snarls too. I want it to be easy, I want everything to be smooth, but…sensitive story, lots of love…this work needs to be slow and careful. Once it’s all untangled, once I know where everything goes, then I can continue on.

2 Comments

  1. This is a beautiful post. Hair, editing/rewriting, definitely both tangly things requiring a slow pace.

    What I am finding, in the novel and in most of my writing, is a certain level of frustration with what I want to do and what my abilities are.

    This really resonates with me; I often feel the same. I think it’s that when you (passive-you) have written enough and improved past the “first stages”, you get to the stage of aiming high but not quite having the skill set for your aims. And it’s frustrating, oh, so frustrating. But I suppose there’s no way past it but to keep writing, keep improving, and keep rewriting…

    • cosmicdriftwood
      cosmicdriftwood

      January 2, 2015 at 10:10 am

      Yes…work, work, always more work. And other limits too, like time, and energy, and all the limits so frustrating when there are stories waiting to be told.

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