Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Physical Act of Putting Together a Manuscript

83º ~ too much wind to call this the doldrums and we aren't even close to the dog days yet, but the repetitive weather pattern, sunk in on partly sunny and hot, hot, hot, wears one down, still someone said the word "solstice" on a blog this morning and my first thought was "no, no, no, no, no, no..." I am not ready for the light to begin leaving us already ~

Fact: Writing is a physical act.  No matter how one writes, there must be some physical act that gets the words on paper.  I think of all those folks who draft in long hand whole novels.  I think of several friends whose bodies no longer allow movement and how they either dictate the words to a confidant or use a specially adapted keyboard.  I think of my own fingers, first curled around the pen and then tapping, tapping, tapping.  There is much going on between mind and hand (or mouth), and yet, the body is mostly still.

Yesterday, the stillness reached a breaking point and I couldn't keep my BIC.  I confess that I did not draft.  I did not revise.  I did not look at the sickly speaker poems.  Instead, I worked in the yard a bit, scheduled and got a hair cut, went to the farmer's market, and both read and watched the TV.  It appears that Tuesdays have become my day of rest from the desk of the Kangaroo.

Last night in the nearly sleeping time, I was thinking about how I'd printed off the poems in A Fever of Unknown Origin on Monday and how I should probably read through all the poems today.  I also remembered a blog exchange.  I think it was with Molly Spencer, but for the life of me I can't find it now.  One blogger friend (Molly?) mentioned reading some other blog in which a poet mentioned being at a writer's residency and being able to pin all of her poems up on the wall and then sleep with the draft of her mss. floating above her.  At the time, I knew I wanted to do this but was fixated on the pinning part and couldn't figure out how to make it work in my house.  I dreamed of putting cork over an entire wall but never followed through.  Then, last night, just as I was falling asleep, I realized that I could use what I already had: my two sturdy bookcases and a roll of Scotch tape. 

And voila:
* See note below
This morning, I got physical with the manuscript and taped (not pinned!) each poem in the current order.  I miscounted on the first row, so I have one sad poem all alone on the bottom rung, but that seems good to me now, given that I have no idea if there will be more poems coming from the sickly speaker. 

I'm thrilled with this breakthrough, and I found myself taking lots of time with each poem, feeling the weight of each piece of paper in my hand and while not reading every word, skimming titles and knowing the essence of each poem, getting a feel for if the poems belonged the one next to the other.  The pieces of tape might not be as easy to rearrange as pins, but I can still see that I'll be able to move the pages as necessary.  This makes me happy.  I feel a shift in the work for the remaining 10 days of this self-imposed homestead residency.  I want to think of the mss. as a whole.  I want to revise what was written earlier this month.  I want to contemplate where other poems are needed.  I want to be okay with knowing I didn't write a draft a day but that I was getting the work done regardless.

*What you don't see in this picture is the pile of junk I took off the top of the shelves and from in front of many of the books.  That's all piled on the floor now, but also a good thing, as I'm sure it needs to be sorted and either used or recycled or what-have-you.


January said...

(91 degrees, baby!)

I love learning how other writers put together their m'scripts. I have laid my pages out on the floor but never on the walls. Cool.

Kathleen said...

Now I am staring at your poems and humming, "Let's Get Physical" by Olivia Newton John.

Molly said...

Yes, it was me! And it was Sandra Beasley who had written about it on her blog.

I couldn't agree more that writing is a physical act -- the drafting itself, the arranging of manuscripts (or even mini-manuscripts). Even revisions can come to me through physical work away from my desk. I find it fascinating that the body knows so much, if we but listen.

Sandy Longhorn said...

January, we just hit 92º! I've done the floor thing and also put the poems on an 8 ft conference table. The only problem is you have to pick them up fairly soon. I'm loving this "live with it" approach.

Kathleen, an excellent choice!

Molly, thank you! For the life of me, I couldn't find it!