Writing is like talking to someone through wood--oak, cherry, maple. You have an idea, a feeling, a theme, maybe a character and a plot. You want to present all of those elements cleanly and clearly to the person next to you, and that's when you realize that there is a block of wood between you.
But you don't give up. You write and you write and you write, and then you present your story. The reader says, "What were you trying to say about love?"
In your mind, love was clear and flat out perfectly presented. To the reader, it was a mess of emotion and wasted space.
You try again, and again, and maybe the wood shaves itself down to the very finest balsa wood. It's still there between the two of you, but the reader nods, holds up your manuscript, nods. "Good stuff," the reader says, walking away, looking for someone else to talk to, another person with a big old block of wood next to her head.
But the truth is, if the reader doesn't see the love in my story, I haven't done my job. There is nothing wrong with the reader. I am just communicating to him in the hardest way possible. Through words where all my emotion, feelings, body language, voice, and tone must come through print. I can't smile during the encouraging sections or wave my hands during the fight scene. All my words need to move the reader and the words alone must do the dirty, clean, hard, wonderful work.
I fail all the time.
This week in my composition classes, I was talking about revision and editing. I happened to have the manuscript that I'm working on with me, a hard copy of the pieces in the collection. I've been reading through it as they do their in-class writing, and I picked it up to show them all the scribbles I made on every page. All the corrections and additions, and then I told them, "This is probably the sixth draft of each piece."
They were horrified. They didn't want to hear that at all. They like to look at the pristine beauty of their words on the computer screen and then print. Once. They staple the pages together and then turn it in. At that point, they and I are communicating with a Mt. Diablo between us, a mountain of iron and dirt and clay. Often, I have no idea what they are saying, and they are incensed that this is the case. They imagine that along with their essay they've turned in a tiny version of themselves that speaks to me as I read: "See that paragraph? That's where I get serious. Yes, yes. The grammar isn't so good. Keep going. Look how I used the word 'adversary.' Works well, huh? Smile now! I'm making a joke, but just ignore the spelling error."
I have to put all the little people into a box and give them a sharp talking to, turning them back to their bigger selves the next day. "No more little people! They eat too much and make noise all night" I shout. "Put the information in the writing!"
Someday, I hope to write so well that there is only a tiny silvery sliver of almost nothing between me and my reader, but I don't imagine that's the way it will go. Mostly, I know I will be here, typing away, trying to say it the best I can, knowing that the reader will never see what I see completely. But I want to get close. Very close.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org