Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dear Journal, time for a Home-Made Revision Workshop post!

My NaBlo posts are in the form of letters to my journal about my revision process. Along the way, I'll include Home-Made Revision Workshop posts, and my Friday Challenges.

Dear Journal,
I think it is time for another Home-Made Revision Workshop post! This has been the lost week for me, but I'm feeling pretty good - so I'll dip into my main resource - The Artful Edit - by Susan Bell - and see what happens. I think I'll just go serendipity wise - every bit of it is jammed to the gunnels -

(The outer edge of the deck where it meets the gunwale (pronounced "gunnel") at the top of the topside. The rail sometimes is raised to stop waves and provide a toerail. this expression means as full of a boat full of fish could be! )

with pithy instruction - so we'll just let the fates direct us on this cool lovely October day. I'm going to a random number program - be back in a jiffy.
The earliest technical usage for jiffy was defined by Gilbert Newton Lewis (1875–1946). He proposed a unit of time called the "jiffy" which was equal to the time it takes light to travel one centimetre (approximately 33.3564 picoseconds).[2] It has since been redefined for different measurements depending on the field of study.[3]

Who knew that's what 'jiffy' meant?  I just thought it was an expression of the fifties invented by suburban mothers. Well I did!

I went here - and put in the range and got the number 192. Now I'm opening the book - the suspense is unbelievable, isn't it?!

The topic on 192 starts on 191 and it is about editors as censors and usurpers. this is in a chapter on the history of editing which is bloody fascinating and which everyone should read. On page 192, Bell discusses how Emily Dickinson ran into an editor's squeamishness. Bell says:
Her poem "I taste a liquor never brewed" was first printed in 1861 in the Springfield Daily Republican. In that paper, the first stanza read:
I taste a liquor never brewed,
From tankards scooped in pearl;
Not Frankfort berries yield the sense
Such a delirious whirl.
Bell goes on to tell us that the poem wasn't written that way. Her stanza more brazen and forthright. Here it is:

I taste a liquor never brewed---
From Tankards scooped in Pearl ---
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!
The editor turned to common punctuation instead of Dickinson's wonderful dashes (sorry Blogger won't let me), added some words, a rhyme (pearl/whirl) and made it all too ladylike.
Dickinson's response? " one can publish and at the same time preserve the integrity of one's art?"

After a bit more discussion involving Hemingway and his editor Max Perkins, Bell states "It is bad enough for an editor to prune provocative phrases or ideas from a writer's work out of fear they will offend; when writers do this to themselves, one might wonder why they write at all."

And that is the pith that I want to run with in today's revision workshop. How do we stop ourselves from our own censoring while revising. It is the edge of the sword blade - on one side the fear of being overly precious with our writing and on the other, our desire to be liked and accepted getting in the way of our truth.

I can't tell you the freedom I've felt, co-existing with great sorrow, at my father not being able to read my writing any more. I know that sounds harsh, but he was such a huge influence and some of it not so good - I never wanted to fret him, and frankly, some of my real honest to the bone writing would fret him. I find myself elevating others into that inner censor and I must work hard to rout them out and write what is true for me. I'm not talking about revealing family secrets or anything like that - just that my style might be offensive to a dad raised in a different time. And I fully own that it might not even be remotely true - as I'm sure he censored his tastes from his children as much as we to him. It is that inner Dad I must deal with and it is somewhat easier now that I know he can't read over my shoulder. (and if he can, I don't want to know about it!)

So, for those of you in the revision process - have a look at what you hold back on and why. I'm not asking you to change from a style that suits you to one that doesn't because it is edgier etc... I'm merely asking you, within the context of the work itself, are there things you are self-censoring? I will be asking myself that over the next while.

Later lovelies! Only two more posts in this series - it has been good for me, hope it has for you.
And here is a photo from my contemplative practice - this week's assignment - texture.


Danette said...

Wow Jan! I can totally relate to what you said about your father. I felt the same way when my grandmother died. She was such and influence on me that I don't know that I could eve write freely as long as she was alive and could write what I wrote. I miss her (of course) but she was a very pious lady and there were a lot of things I said that shocked her even before her death. My writing? it most definitely would offend her. I appreciate this post a lot, thanks for you frankness!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

So much to think about in this post. Love learning about jiffy, and that's a gorgeous photo and the comment about your father watching over your shoulder cracked me up, even though I know that's bittersweet. I used to get those thoughts about my grandmother and it would give me pause. :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Ha! I just saw Danette's comment. Maybe we all suffer that.

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - How right you are! We do censor ourselves at times. I think we do that not only because of people in our lives, but also because of things that have happened to us. We shy away from them and that affects our writing. Interesting question whether it's a problem if we self-censor. And if it is, how we step aside and allow ourselves to write things our inner censor would "red-pencil."

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