Thursday, August 6, 2015

Revising Your Manuscripts and Your Past

Until the computer found its way into your life as an instrument for composition, you were used to the need for wastepaper baskets, most of which were filled with crumpled manuscript pages.   At least one of these wastebaskets was papered over with a collage of rejection slips from dozens of magazines no longer in existence. 

Wastebaskets, wadded manuscript pages, and rejection slips became an early part of your routine.  If a particular story or essay were rejected ten times, you felt it was time to be subjected to the Inquisition of Revision. 

This was your silent way of acknowledgment.  However fond you were of words, sentences, paragraphs, and your interest in ways these  elements could be linked to form meaningful narrative or discourse, things did not always work out as you'd hoped.  Sometimes these things were sources of the kinds of itches that appear in portions of your back you are least well equipped to reach.

Your current involvement with computers at the current level of wireless connections to printers, and the ability to move files from one device to another does not mean things work out as you'd hoped, with no equivalents of crumpled pages or printed manuscripts, now covered with handwritten emendations.  Far from it.  

Instead of crumpled manuscript paper, you highlight a paragraph or a page, click the Select All option, then tap the deleter key with the little finger of your right hand, sending those offensive keystrokes back to the divine nothingness of the chaos from which you attempted to wrest them.

The more realistic meaning is your awareness that thoughtful narratives or discourses have not become easier over time. Word order, intent, sound, and attitude are only a few of the causes for the crumpled pages or that emphatic tap on the delete button.  There was something satisfying about the sound of meshing gears, of the friction of paper being yanked from a typewriter platen.  

You're pleased to have the memory of those misadventures and their consequence, the knowledge you would have to start gain, rethink, re-envision.   Revision is not only a way of your working life, it is in large measure the way of your entire life.

In one way or another, you're reacting to some past incident which, although you cannot replay or revise it, you are attempting to marshall your present day coping devices to accommodate.  The past action could have taken place as recently as yesterday, but it could have also had origins in a time or incident with an origin you can no longer pinpoint, although you've been in a way, revising or reacting to over a considerable haul. Random as Reality can be, Life seems to hear also the sound of that different drummer, Causality.

Although there are many narratives with looser structures than the conventional plot designs, the concept of Causality removes much of the apparent randomness of Reality by suggesting an equivalent of Newtonian physics brought to the page or stage:  Random acts don't make the cut.  Events that take place on the page or stage have been triggered by relevant past actions.  Even an apparent whim will have had its origins in some past action.

Revision of a manuscript gives you the leeway and thrill of appearing to leave your own fingerprint on Reality by doing in effect what the Army Corps of Engineers did to the Mississippi River.  You reroute, shunt, divert, dam courses of dramatic information, which is a gathering of agenda, motive, consequence, and attitude.  

You cannot in Reality make a direct revision for some  thoughtless behavior delivered in the past, but you can make it your purpose to do something you consider positive and worthwhile in present time as a way of acting on your revision.

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