Wednesday, May 19, 2010


You frequently use the concept of discovery as an index to inform you when you have completed early drafts of a work, then proceeded through the revision process to the point where you are feeling not merely comfortable about the work but bordering on confident. Conversely, when the index of confidence begins to bubble too noisily, you reckon it time to go back one more time for a search and destroy mission; your specific target in this pass is the distracting detail, the factor or memory or other response that pulls you and, presumably, the reader away from the trail of cookie crumbs leading to the witch's house.

So far, so good; but what kind of discovery impresses you, and why should discovery be so uppermost in your revision mind? First answer is the more general one of any connection or awareness you had not noticed going into the project, any connection that came to you in the heat of the first few drafts. Perhaps a similarity, perhaps a new path of understanding opening for you, perhaps the Archimedes moment of finding out something you believe you are late in coming to, a connection that must be seen, you imagine, by your peers. The second answer goes, you believe, to the heart of why you enjoy writing work: You write to discover how you feel about a thing or concept, you write to see how you would likely respond were the problems and issues of your stories presented to you in real life. You also discover how it would feel to experience things you have not experienced in your waking hours or to trespass in the landscape of fantasy where, by writing of others, you may experience the forbidden or the impossible.

You often bring gasps of recognition to classes or writing groups by pursuing the line that writers are control freaks, compulsive, and obsessive--all of which you believe to be true. The recognition of these aspects of the craft is a continuous discovery, bringing energy, satisfaction, and a deeper sense of connection to all the outliers of your persona. Through this calculus,which seems simple and obvious to you now that you have discovered it, you are able to tell yourself in so many words that you write to discover things which, by their essential nature, give you the rush of energy. You begin a particular piece or take up work on one underway in a manner similar to the musician practicing the coordination of improvisation; you start out on a theme, become immersed in it, then "accept" the new element or detail, or what "seems" to be the new element or detail, following it, trying to blend it with what you have begun, continuing until the connection appears, presents itself in a clear enough way for you to put it into words. It is important to note than you do not so much try to describe it as to evoke with words and images the emotional presence it brings you.

It nearly embarrasses you to think of what your work must have been like before you began looking for and receiving discovery in it, embarrasses you in the same way rereading certain favorites and being surprised at their previously unnoticed depths surprises you.

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