On the revisions of the revisions of the revisions

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Checking in here with an update on the revisions for Francie’s Got A Gun.

My editor replied back last Friday on my “revisions of the revisions” and as I type this out, I realize this may be why it’s so challenging to reflect on the revision process, or try to answer a common question: How long did it take you to write that book, or a variation of that question, How did you write that book? The answer to the latter question is: Magic? Witchcraft? I’ve totally forgotten and have no idea and fear I’ll never be able to do it again? The answer to the former question is: Years? But also: An hour every morning, from 6-7AM for several months. And then bursts of intense days, as my life allowed. But also intense weeks. Waiting, setting it aside, attempting other projects. And then more weeks, intense and wonderful. And now a trickle of back and forth, a week, days, hours. At various points in this process, I have felt energized, confused, worn down, hopeless, thrilled, manic, exhausted, possessed.

I wrote a first draft of this book, by hand in my notebook, after my second concussion when I couldn’t look at screens at all, in 2017. It bears little resemblance to the tightly crafted draft I worked on this past week, on-screen, marked up with queries and comments back and forth about details that are getting (mercifully!) finer and finer.

It’s getting close.

So, here’s my update on my latest efforts to revise: This past week, I worked on the revisions of the revisions of the revisions. Aaaand … we still have a round or two to go, to tighten and respond to some challenging bits. Deadline next Friday.

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Here’s what I’ve been reflecting on this week: I love doing this work. It’s all I really want to do. I seem to have a bottomless appetite and energy for it, every part; I want to learn, and the urge to learn, that sense that I still have more to learn, feeds me. Some elements come more naturally (grammar, use of language, experimenting with structure); others require enormous effort (timelines and plot, to name two). It’s been such a joy to get to pour my energy and my admittedly somewhat obsessive personality fully into pursuing this work: writing fiction. Full-time. I’m gobsmacked and amazed that I get to do it. I walk the dog around the block after dinner, letting myself soak in the novelty and surprise of getting to do this work that I love.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have bleak moments, or guilty ashamed moments, caught up in treacherous ego and attachment to outcomes; I spent most of the “revisions of the revisions” wading through exactly that ugly, tiresome swamp. Berating myself for my efforts. Bleak with a feeling of worthlessness. I’m sorry to say it. I wish those feelings and thoughts never came. But they do, as I’m sure they come for most of us. So I kept on doing the work that was before me, despite being consumed with self-doubt. I rejigged the timeline (excruciating!) and revised and revised and revised and sent the draft back for more comments. I also talked to a therapist (art therapy, in fact). I’m telling you this because it’s important to name the supports that keep me afloat. Continuing to work kept me afloat, my little writing group kept me afloat, early morning exercise kept me afloat.

And the joy returned, the gratitude returned. Instead of you suck and you’ll always be a mediocre writer, I heard: This is your work, and you’re able to do it; what more do you need? And the answer is, honestly, nothing. This is my work and I’m able to do it. Whether it’s good or bad or middling, well, that’s not for me to decide. It’s none of your business, as Lynda Barry would say.

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada this weekend. Sending out heaps of gratitude, with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy, and stuffing, and pie for dessert.

xo, Carrie

September reflections
Writing retreat

4 Comments

  1. Thank you for this honest peek into your revision process. Thank you for baring the self-doubt. And the beautifully hopeful touchstone: “This is your work, and you’re able to do it; what more do you need?” I’m thankful I get to learn when you generously share about your process.

    Reply
    • You’re so welcome, Ellisha. Thank you for commenting.
      I need that touchstone (or a similar one) almost every time I sit down to work: something to hold that’s grounding, a reminder, an appreciation. It’s so much simpler to work from a place of gratitude than fear. But it’s also understandable that as human beings we need reminders to return us there, again and again. Self-doubt is just part of being human, I think. I don’t expect it to ever go away … I’m just learning how to become more comfortable with that fact of life!

      Reply
  2. Thank you for your honesty, Carrie: there’s so much here that resonates, and hearing your description of the process is both reassuring and inspiring. Can’t wait to see the final product when it’s ready. I hope you and your family had a lovely Thanksgiving!

    Reply
    • Thank you, Trilby! Revising is honestly such a non-linear process, in both practical and emotional terms. It can be very satisfying work while also being completely terrifying. But I do find (as I’m sure you do too!) that it’s so much lighter when done in collaboration with a trusted editor; that just opens the whole process up.

      Reply

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