Scratching surfaces


I played the lottery today, one of those $3 crossword cards. (I won, too!) The way you do it is this: you are given a bank of letters, and you scratch off the letters you have that appear in the crossword. If you make a word, you get a point, and the more words you make, the more you win.

Then today when I was working on OUT, I had this sudden flash that I was scratching off the surface of an underlying, fully formed work that already existed. It felt as if I were excavating something at an archaeological dig, an artifact or treasure buried under the weight of possible words and sentences. My task is to chisel, chop, sand, and burnish the debris around the artifact to undercover what is truly there.

I’ve never thought about writing int his way before, but it was a real epiphany: the idea that a work exists in some future and that I am simply uncovering it. If I am in tune with the work, I will uncover its true form and it will be successful (whatever that means…not sold or bought, just successful in its own right.) If I go astray or get distracted from my purpose, I might take a wrong turn, hit the sledgehammer in the wrong place, chop off an essential portion or leave something precious buried, distorting the true image of what is there.

I am practicing being still with my writing, listening to its infinite whisper and trying to feel a resonance when I get it right, or to follow my instinct when something doesn’t quite fit. These are small, still voices, so it is difficult work. I am hopeful that I am excavating precisely, and that when I’m finished, I’ll have found something worth keeping.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Susan
    Mar 12, 2011 @ 15:44:58

    WOW! You’re definitely on to something big!

    Reply

  2. Ron Goetz
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 12:34:46

    Interesting image, chipping away to uncover something already there. A little chipping, a little polishing. I’ll have to see if it works for me.

    How’s your novel coming? Hope your tears for Chris don’t interfere with your keyboard work.

    Hmm. Does that make writers keyboardists?

    Reply

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