Like many others who graduated from creative writing or analogous programs, I was taught that revision is the foundation to good writing. In addition to re-writing, redrafting and all around revision, I was taught not to throw anything I wrote away, as some distant day may finally be The Day where finishing my chapbook on paranoia, is exactly what I'll need to do.
I think a lot of writers are natural hoarders anyway, so educating the urge is something of a step toward making paying customers feel some validation; that they were on the right track the whole time. For me, I like to hold on to things so I can refer back to them as a way of tracking my writing.
Earlier today I read an article in the Boston Globe, entitled, Revising your writing again? Blame the Modernists which made the point that though revision can make a piece better, that doesn't necessarily mean that it will . In my mind, the parallels between gambling and writing (once again) come to the fore: both endeavors take a certain amount of risk and often, those that are successful at it are those who have no thoughts on what might happen if they lose. Additionally, those that are continually successful at either one develop a sense of when to stick with a run and when to walk away.
I feel like this is something I have to be mindful of during the revision process and certainly as I ready things for submission. So, today I took a look at the first poem I had published, something I have worked on a little bit since its publication and may continue to at some later date. The following poem was published The Emerson Review , Spring 2007, volume 36.
Sudden Seizures and Acquisitions
I was waiting in line at the bank
wondering how the woman in front
of me got so fat. I recoiled slightly
thinking about it, imagining she
smelled. You know, the way fatties
do, like corn-chip burps with sugar
sprinkled on them or sweaty desperation
and suddenly I sniffed a sweet pinkness,
like a lolly caressed by lips, licked
adoringly down to the stick by an angel
floating on a bunny shaped cloud
of cotton candy.
I turned my back on Li’l Debbie,
tongue lolling wolfishly at Ms.
cherry-popped, and stared. I could
almost see saccharine sequins, SnoCap
buttons melting around her smiling
Haribo peach, smacking wetly as it
applied frosty-pink lip gloss.
I stepped out of line coaxing Robin
back into his Hood, pretending
I had filled out my deposit slip
incorrectly. I watched Candy Pants
sashay to the window and say, “Can
I give you this roll of dimes
to put in my account?” If she were
my piggy, she could bank on me
slipping a roll of dimes into her
account at least twice daily, until
senseless and spent. My deposits
would be huge.
Li’l Debbie looked at me tearfully.
“But Billy, don’t you like munching
my oatmeal cream pie? “Don’t I
always unwrap your dingdong and
play with your ho ho’s?” I said,
“Debbie, it’s not you, it’s me.”
She growled, saying she always thought
I was into drakes and if I wanted
to put my yodel into twinkies “not
packaged for resale” then I could go
fudge myself. “Look Cupcake, I said
I’m sorry, but me and this Tootsie
are gonna roll.” Her eyes were
as cool as stepping into a blue
Toyota where Miles Davis is playing
Someday my Prince Will Come.
“I’ll get you for this,” she said,
“God in heaven, I’ll get you for this.”
What this reminds me of now, is that getting published is as much about what publishers think people want to read as it is about what a given writer's vision of what their work should be. A frustrating thing, to be sure. This poem, as it appeared in The Emerson Review was not what I would consider to be complete and yet, it is the way it "officially" exists. As I mentioned, there are several later drafts of this poem, which feel similarly incomplete, but as they say, "sometimes good enough is good enough."
. . . but ack! Those line breaks :(