Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Believing the "Truth" of Your Own Words: The Enemy of Revision

"I love tremendous and sonorous words. But his words are too hearty to be true. Yet he is by this time convinced of their truth." ~V.W. The Waves; the character of Bernard describing the Headmaster and his speeches

Have you ever found yourself, whether verbally or silently, responding to a critique/workshop/mentor in a manner similar to this: "But I want it that way! I meant to do it that way!"

Because I have. There was this one particular instance where I described a car in my piece and my group went--why is this car here? What does it represent? There is no point to this car that we can reasonably see.

My response?

I want it that way. I meant to do it that way. It will have a very symbolic point.

And it's true. I do still want it that way. I do mean to do it that way. I am "by this time convinced of their [the car/my words] truth." Since I told myself, over and over, the car would have an impact, I believed it would. That's the hearty of the above quote--if I say it loud enough, long enough, it will be true.

But we have to recognize when we argue a little too loudly. (Defensive much? Hmm? Pay attention.)

When you argue, you stimy your revision process. The longer it takes you to stop being defensive, and right, the longer it takes to work on the parts that need to be worked on. Guess what? Sometimes you'll be right. Sometimes your first readers might be tired, or grumpy, or trying to sell their house.

Your words are not the Truth. They are words. They can be switched around to greater effect. The words that describe a car ad nauseum can be deleted. It's that Backspace key.

If you need to believe in the "truth" at first, in order to get to the good stuff, then by all means write whatever strikes that note. Just remember, these words aren't set in stone and sometimes there are better, cleaner ways to put things.

3 comments:

  1. I've been there with that stubborn attitude... There's nothing more humbling than getting critiqued.

    It struck me that this post applies to any change, really. There's always a resistance, and then later the realization that your way is not the only one.

    Profound, eh? :-)

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  2. This is a difficult subject. I guess it all comes down to how much you trust the person who's giving you advice/critique.

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  3. Fleur--totally profound. I've learned with cleaning and child care, my way is not the only way...and generally not the best way. Though brownies for breakfast isn't always bad! ;)

    Anita--yeah, it is hard. I mean, how do you figure out how to weigh the advice, even if you totally trust the source? I did tone back on the car because there was too much emphasis...but that took a few weeks of thinking about it.

    And that was just my critique group! How hard is it to weigh in and debate with an agent/editor, who may feel heftier (weight-wise) because they have lots to say in the career/money making/living life departments.

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