Saturday, February 06, 2010

Writing is never Wasted

Just posted this in the comments box over at Harriet, under Bhanu Kapil's post "Dung & Glitter"

Writing is never wasted. I tell my students this, urging them to throw away a draft and start again…difficult to do, to trust. I have variously taken drafts and burned them, tore them into tiny shreds, let them go…the old drafts become the texture and resonances in the new. I have written this novel (now finished and out of my hands thankfully) at least three full times (I mean conceptually, structurally different), and each with multiple drafts. Those texts, like mulch, made the final version fuller, lusher.

Once I found a squirrel outside of my house in Toronto. It was spring. I was preparing my garden. I took it and buried it in a corner. I planted a kind of wildflower–can’t recall the name now, it’s like a long grass with small, pink, orchid-like flowers at the bends. In any case there was a fabulous peak where I buried the squirrel, almost half again as tall as the other areas, greener, lusher…

I think of writing like that.

4 comments:

Dainty Monster said...

Um... the squirrel was dead when you found it, right? Just checking.

Reminds me of bpNichol & friends burying "Terry" in the backyard:

"we buried terry beyond the orchard /
mark & i digging in the half-frozen earth / laid her to rest as best we could / awkward phrases / it doesn't make much sense"

Terry, fortunately or unfortunately, was a dog.

Lemon Hound said...

Ah, an important detail. Yes. Not run over though. Apparently if they are crossing power lines and the tale hits one wire when they are on another zzt... I don't know if that's a myth or what.

Nick Piombino said...

You may be right about writing never being wasted in another sense. Sometimes I look back on older stuff I wrote that I like better and I get stuck. My wife Toni suggested I write something every day and not look at it. I did this and then started writing a new poem. Today we went to listen to a guitar duet. I got sleepy and bored. When I woke up they were looser and getting better. By the end I thought they were terrific. Practicing may be beneficial for writing also; perhaps it is not so unlike making music. Maybe you have to warm up sometimes just to get limber. One of the things I like about blogging.

Lemon Hound said...

Nick, absolutely. I think the writing gains rather than loses elasticity...

On the other hand, while Anne Carson is a great recycler of her work, sometimes she doesn't even change a word.