To Craft and Construct

Should you find yourself in a rush to declare something finished, don’t.

Immediacy is a thing in the world right now. It seems many of us want what we want when we want it. Whether we are seeking to replenish a supply of notebooks or, an actual app-loaded notebook, most of what we want, need, or think we do, is a mere click away. Writing materials, new clothing, household items, all of it is ours for the online asking. Order it today, have it by the morning. Quick. Easy.

There is a downside to such constant and immediate accessibility. Writers who get too caught up in this risk losing an edge in terms of maintaining the patience and the fortitude to stick with the demands of the drafting process. As we well know, writing, especially creative writing, doesn’t abide by the rules of click today, here tomorrow.

Quality writing as an end-product requires time, work, and focused effort. Many expect to reach that final draft far sooner than what the writing requires. It is not uncommon for some writers to lose interest or become overwhelmed when they find themselves in the midst of having to craft or reconstruct lines and passages further than they originally thought necessary or possible. Ah, the work, the labor! Right?

This construction period is not easy and demands a consistency in deep focused thought and critical consideration. (Mark Twain wasn’t joking with the words, “I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.” )

So take heed and don’t shy away from the time and effort required to work through your writing whenever possible. The idea that a first draft is akin to a final draft is a fallacy.

Sure, there are stories regarding a certain poet who allegedly churned out a series of multi-stanza pieces after waking from a deep slumber, (as they say), only to have that first draft version immediately published with everyone lauding that poet’s rich use of language and craft. This happens. There are also tales of poets who allegedly sat down to write one morning and by mid-day had multiple pages of what very well may have been finished, crafted, pieces. These poets in question, no doubt, are either entirely mythological or are especially highly talented, practiced, and consistent in their writing practice. The key words there are #practiced and #consistent. Talent is subjective.

Among those at the top of their writing game, the topic of hours spent working and re-working a phrase, a line, a page, until they are deemed, just right is probably never openly discussed. This “time invested” is viewed as a typical part of the writing process. The message here is that good writing takes time. Taking time requires patience.

Should you find yourself in a rush to declare something finished, don’t. Take the time to offer a second, or third consideration. Consider the writing as being under construction and work accordingly with that mindset. Remember, a first draft is what it is, rough and in need of further work.

Again, all of this takes time. A mindset which recognizes the value of patiently working to ultimately produce writing that is clear, concise, and impactful is realistic. This is when a writer’s abilities to use language to sharpen a line and flesh out a detail are on full display.

The art of cutting excess wording in one line, fleshing out images in another, arranging and re-arranging stanzas and lines may not be appealing to some, but when done well, will ultimately garner respect from your reading audience. As you delve into the nuances of your own writing, notice ways to make the piece more exact in what you intended to communicate. Good writers make this look easy. (This is why it is such a great exercise to study the way writing that speaks to us is constructed and crafted.)

What matters is that you remain committed to giving your drafts time to reach their fullest potential. Afterwards, you can scroll down and click through for a quick fix ordering of whatever household or personal item or necessity you need to replenish or immediately restock. Doing so will ensure that you will not only be keeping up with the ongoing cadences of online ordering, but also that your writing will be progressing nicely as well.

Keep at it. As always, may the Muses be with you.

~Judith Lagana

On Writing Process: The Essential Nine Phases (Part 2)

Part 2 of 3

When we last left off, we were considering how the key stages of observing, reading, and mulling (over) figured into the “Essential Nine Phase of the Writing Process.” Again, this multi-phased process acknowledges the key phases that writers pass through during the entirety of their writing process. The next three stages, drafting, revising, and rereading, are also key to the overall process.

Let’s take a look:

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“…the phases of drafting, revising, and rereading form the heart of the writing process.”

4.  Drafting

In the beginning, there is the first draft. Few things are as pure.

This initial piece of writing is raw in the sense of being new and authentic. Ideally during this stage, the writer gets caught up in the writing itself. No overthinking. No doubting or judging. Just pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Pure unadulterated writing. The drafting phase is the free fall, the jump off. It is here that a writer lets loose and allows that blend of whatever imagination, memory, and intent are at work within their psyche.

Included in this mix is the reach towards genre, and whatever figures into the genre of your choosing. Maybe research, maybe form. So many famous writers have offered their take on the writing of the first draft. I adhere to the words of John Steinbeck, who recommended that writers simply, “write fast.” My take on this is to write as quickly as possible, without overthinking, so that the ideas flow before they fade and risk being lost. This doesn’t work for everyone. So, it is important that you experiment and pay attention to what works best for you in terms of getting down that initial flow of images, details, and insights.


5. Revising

Revising is akin to revisiting your first draft. Depending on your take on things, this phase can be one of the more enjoyable phases in your writing process. This is where you return, skim through, and work through your first draft forms.. You make revisions, add a line here or there, delete or develop a detail or image. It is during the revision phase when you’ll look for those openings within your writing that offer the chance to further delve in and explore, expand. It is here where the opportunity to develop an image, a character, a description makes itself available if, you are paying attention. Revision is a necessary and vital phase, so give yourself permission to dwell here in a mindful manner. As you revise you’ll revisit the original piece, your either add to what’s already there, or cut, cross out and delete for the purpose of developing a stronger working draft. It is here where you decide whether or not to commit to taking a draft further.

6.  Rereading

Rereading is the careful and mindful reading aloud of the original, slightly revised piece. This may take place in the form of a quick, subdued read, or a more energized reading. It may be something you do aloud in the company of only yourself or it may be an opportunity you share with a trusted writer friend or family member. However it plays out, the goal is to read the piece aloud for the purpose of listening to cadences and flow.

Where and how does your writing move? Does it stumble or falter? If so, you’ll recognize those areas as needing more work. Does it glide or roll? You’ll celebrate those areas and use their energy as you further revise other segments of the piece. Your editor’s eye and ear should be actively at work here. The rereading phase allows the writer to really listen to the cadence of things and whether or not the writing is as clear as is intended.

A common mistake many writers make is not recognizing that their intended idea may not be transferring as clearly as was intended, onto the page. This reading and rereading phase helps bring the writer's intention in line with the manner in which the words come across to a reader. Numerous, mindful readings and re-readings help with clarity and intent, no doubt.

To any writer, the phases of drafting, revisiting, rereading, form the heart of the writing process. It is here where the writer charts a beginning, a benchmark from which to start and a place from which to move forward. Hopefully as you move through your own writing process you will honor and allot ample time to thee essential phases of drafting, revisiting, and rereading. Your writing will only benefit from your commitment.


~Judith Lagana

Next: Refining, Finalizing, Sharing, Phases 7, 8, & 9 (Part 3 of 3)

 
 
 
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Judith Lagana is the founder and co-editor of River Heron Review.
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When Creativity Calls

Being a good listener is not always easy.  Between real world and online connections, there are a lot of voices coming at us these days. Even if we have time to spare, remaining focused on what is being said in any conversation is challenging.

Experts say that the key to being a good listener is to tend to the task wholeheartedly.  This means focusing on a speaker's message while trying to withhold immediate judgement. This also means paying attention to any post-intellectual, psychological, or physical reactions we may have in response to what is being said. Listen first. Judge, react, respond, later.  

How might this be applied to our writing practice?

Writing is a creative process, so it stands to reason that all writers have an inner source of creative energy.  This creative energy has a voice, one that can energize us as we move through the stages of the writing process should we choose to listen.  Creative energy often manifests when we come across that which deeply resonates with us. It speaks to us when we feel inspired by another artist's work, albeit a piece of writing, music, or visual art.  These resonating moments usually come without notice and require that we pay attention to them. Some moments are akin to the loud person in the room whose voice and words rise above all else. In this case, if you’ll excuse the Arthur Miller allusion, attention can’t help but be paid. But what about those moments that are more subtle?  The soft spoken persons in the room also have something to say. Their words are equally worthy of our attention. 

The art of listening in conversation requires fully focusing on what is being said, even if we are not entirely interested at a particular moment. It requires trying not to get stuck in our own heads as we ready a comeback or think about how we will share our own take on things while another’s voice is coming our way.  For the writer who is fully engaged in the flow of creative inspiration, this means shutting down every doubt or inner-editorializing thought that might impede getting anything but the purest form of an idea down on the page.  Much the same way you would ask yourself,  “What might I learn from this person?" when engaging as a listener in a conversation, you should be asking yourself, “Where will this lead?” as you engage with your own creative ideas.  Listen and let inspiration take hold of the conversation. Those of us who note, afterwards, the psychological, emotional, or intellectual thoughts inspired by such moments of inspiration may be rewarded by new works-in-progress to add to our portfolio of work.

Giving of our full attention to the voice of our creativity is not always easy. But it is worth the effort. Allow the moments when your creative energies unexpectedly speak to you to fuel your writing practice.  Be available when your creative energies surprise you with a call.  Carry a pen and paper, keep your phone charged and have your digital recorder and writing apps at the ready. Pay attention. And, always listen.           

~Judith Lagana