Additions and Revisions
Starting a shitty first draft, adding a section, writing analysis, these are additions. Editing a text to be more concise, prettier, to get to the point, these are revisions. When I write a piece it helps to move between these thoughtfully - it’s hard to get anywhere when you retread old ground. (I often fall into this habit). I begin with additions and when I reach the end of the discursive path I turn back to lay a trail, this being a constant moving between addition and revision. And as I approach the end of a work, my brain shifts into revision. From here it is harder to fill out a text when I realize a section doesn’t work or a transition needs to be added or - the worst - I need to add more analysis. It’s hard because that is creation. I am creating the meanings I attribute to a text, and I don’t always know what those are (that is often the cause of my writing in the first place).
I feel I am writing something good when the words start to resonate (making sense of meaning and creativity through sonic metaphor). Let’s not interrogate goodness, but resonance: themes, ideas, frameworks all lend something to the other. As a single frequency cannot represent a chord, it can be hard to articulate a thesis of this kind of critique. But often I avoid theses anyways, choosing to write around an idea, an inarticulable theme functioning as the fulcrum of an essay rather than the beginning.
During revisions on “Egress”, I came across Noor Hindi’s poem “Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying
.” I knew I needed to make an addition, but that I couldn’t change the entirety of the text to reflect her argument (I was also writing against a deadline). Instead I introduced the poem as an epigraph. The harshest critiques in the essay already relied on juxtaposition because I wanted to render the beauty of Hadestown
that I find so appealing while struggling to find solace in its themes, and I thought this furthered that frame. Framing is important to critique. Of course, the original intention of this juxtaposition was the works’ framing device that bookends both stories: stories told by others at the end, the role of deities, the effect of love on the world, etc. I knew there was a there there, a path to uncover, but I did not know where I was headed when I set out to write this essay.
I think I can rely on talking around the point to a fault (which is why I revise), so the poem presented a striking opportunity to just say the thing as my thoughts had begun to solidify into something I could grasp. (You’ll notice I still didn’t say it.) And you’ll notice our publisher Stu made this framing even more pointed with the placement of a specific image next to the epigraph.
I’m noticing that others are beginning to articulate the theses, themes, or the point of my work better than I can. When I turned in the first draft of this essay, my editor David offered his thematic interpretation of the whole: “struggling to bring something to fruition and conclusion.” This was a homing device as I laid a trail. In line, near the end of the trail: “Maybe this is where the ends all need to end together.” I’m happy with what turned out.
There is never a last brick to lay on these discursive trails, but the sun does set. We will find our way again, and lay a path for others to follow. We could think of the column similarly: I feel I am writing the same essay each month - one that begins in the autumn - on the ends of things and how they come together, again and again.