There there; or On Substance and Style and the Writing Process

I’ve been writing a lot of words on the page. Scrawled loopdiloos, but what do they say?  What are they getting at? That’s the problem. I feel like I’m sleepwriting. All this impressionistic stuff is rushing out, but what is it all about? I’m not sure. I’m trying not to disrupt the process with criticism and analysis at this point, but I’m eyeing it all suspiciously.

Okay, well, then in fact, I AM disrupting the process with criticism and analysis. I know that only when I plunge into the editing process will I discover what there is in here. But there’s so MUCH of it. And I fear that’s it’s all fluff and no substance, or that I’m racing around something but not getting any closer.

How do we balance the creative impulse with creative intent? Too much intent can flatten an impulse like my hair when it gets too long. No body. No bounce. Too much impulse with too little intent is all bounce, all Marlo-Thomas’s-That-Girl-flip-curl.

In the history of talking about learning to write, there has been much attention to “voice” — the finding and nurturing of. But really I read so many well-voiced things that in the end say little. And other work I read may have interesting thoughts not well said. So it’s the two: something to say and a compelling voice to say it with.

And I think a writer’s voice can change, should be allowed to change, maybe ought to change to best meet what the author has to say with any given impulse and intent.

But there must be something to be said. And that takes suspending oneself upside-down in the sink of the inner self (to shove the trope onward — I really do need a haircut…) and let the water and suds flow down.

What I’ve done to myself by stopping this process, by doubting it, is to sit up dripping and soapy. But I must not lose courage. I have to keep writing it all out. Then plod through the mess with my clippers and shears. And if I end up with a shaved head, well, it’s a look.

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One thought on “There there; or On Substance and Style and the Writing Process

  1. Pingback: Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 8 – Via Negativa

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