I bumped into a strange thought in the part of my mind that begins to whirl as I prepare to do a blog post. Is not writing while writing a blog about the writing life deceptive?
I have a confession. I’ve not written much of anything except blog posts for a very long time. It’s not because I don’t want to write or because I feel blocked. It’s more a matter of doing what I gotta do. What I do for a living is moderate comments on a website and proofread their articles part-time, and do freelance editing and manuscript evaluation as well, so my spurts of creative writing blossom only around the edges of these time constraints.
This is not unusual, since most writers have day jobs because we don’t make much money writing unless we work for media or if we're one of a small number of best-selling authors. I find my day job much more distracting than other types of day jobs, because my work involves using a computer and going online, and well, you get the picture . . . I find it easier to block time for creative writing when I work away from home and when that job doesn’t involve computers.Then I’m more eager to face a blank screen or notebook. Sitting down to write - in my case, staying in front of a computer for eight, ten or twelve hours of work - doesn’t foster creative thoughts. Plus, ya gotta live to have something to write about, and my stationary jobs don’t require much lively engagement with the world.
Lately I’ve found another compelling distraction. I find butting heads online with people who think differently than me about the Zimmerman legal case a great excuse to not write. Just when I thought we might be out of the rabbit hole, despite all the election year nonsense, George Zimmerman had to go and shoot Trayvon Martin. I won’t comment on all the media hoopla surrounding the case, but it certainly became a walk through the looking glass, though I might mean that differently than others do.
Gun control is an issue that touches my heart deeply, both as a mother / grandmother and as a bystander who’s witnessed numerous people suffer greatly over the “freedom” to bear and use arms. I'm a Buddhist and I regard guns as a tool we could mostly live without. The writer in me thinks these make good props in thrillers, dramas, and mysteries. I’m a lifelong pacifist and haven’t seen a war in my lifetime that seems worth fighting, I don’t support the death penalty, and I’m suspicious of people who execute someone after a minute or two of unarmed combat and then claim self-defense. I seem to recall all sorts of rowdy brawls in years past that people walked away from alive. I regard loose gun laws and the SYG laws that accompany these in the 21st century as a national disgrace. Jellyfish and more jellyfish. We have about as many firearms as there are people in our country – what could possibly go wrong?
I’m okay if you disagree with my assessment. Many do, and they have compelling reasons for their stance as well. I think the national conversation we’re having because of the Zimmerman legal case is long overdue. It’s a shame that two more families are suffering because a firearm was used to solve an issue that could have and should have been resolved in another manner.
What can we do to protect ourselves from abuse and still respect the rights of others to live? I only ask this rhetorically, because I’m really not interested in debating the question on a writing blog or in fielding a bunch of angry comments here. This topic will be discussed until kingdom come, I’m certain, and there will likely be little reconciliation between the two or more camps on the subject until people are flat out tired of easy killing and overuse of force to solve issues solvable in other ways. Many other industrialized nations tired of this issue long ago and have very different self-defense laws than ours. In the US, we embrace a Wild West, rights-driven point of view with regards to owning weapons and have extended Castle Doctrine to the great out of doors and public places. Many Americans live in a bubble and don’t even realize how different our culture is from others in this regard . . .
As you can see, my way of thinking is very different from many other people’s, and I’ve felt like a pariah or a prophet for most of my life.
*Sigh* But back to my w-r-i-t-i-n-g concerns: I do feel like a fraud, talking about writing and yet not doing much. Aiding others to write through edits or suggested revisions of their work just doesn’t seem like the real deal. Sure, I’ve pulled out old, unpublished stories and essays a time or three over the past year, and even put together a manuscript of short fiction which includes my postgrad novella. I’ve doodled around with these pieces, even sending submissions out to publishers and writing contests, and have even had a few old unpublished pieces published. I’ve collaborated with a writing friend and hashed out some stories that we’ve also published recently – but these had a skeleton, a plan started by my collaborator, and weren’t entirely my brainchildren. As far as truly getting down to the creative nitty-gritty and starting fresh, new work – even a mere poem or a flash story . . . well, I hang my head in shame!
Or should I be ashamed? Even light revision is part of the writing process, is it not? How many times have you tweaked and tweaked and tweaked an essay, a story, a poem, or even a novel, thinking the project finished, and then finally, after you impulsively change one more sentence, or maybe the title, you send off your work – and hallelujah! – you get an acceptance letter in return!
What is more important – the first draft, the major edits, or the final tweaks?