Searching

Humans are always searching for something: the Holy Grail, le mot juste, the perfect piece of chocolate. Some searches are lofty, like knights of the Round Table seeking the Holy Grail. Others are personal, like writers looking for the right word in the right place, le mot juste. With a nod of the head and tip of the hat to Gustave Flaubert, nothing is harder than reducing long rambling ideas to a succinct phrase that perfectly describes what we need to say.

As a writer, I only start writing when I start editing. For me, the first draft is always a pouring forth of everything possible that could go into a book. Time for a confession, I’m trying to go from being an eighteen-draft writer (yes, you read that right) to a ten-draft writer. I work with a couple of terrific critique peeps who never let me get away with sloppy phrasing or the wrong word. I love editing. I really do. I work hard to write prose that flows, create characters that draw the reader in and twist plots to keep the reader off base. I write a series where I have to be sure I don’t change the hair color of a character–except for a teen who changes hair color as often as she changes tee-shirts. I can’t change character names, relationships, ages without explaining the switch in focus. I’m fortunate that I have a strong book-club reading public that catches me on every oops, always after the book is in print.

I have yet to suffer from writer’s block, because I’m always searching for time to capture a new idea. I have a cyber file of fragments, synopses, rejected sections of novels. Those rejected chapters live in a file called “parking lot,” where I park stuff I cut from one story or another. I will most likely use them in short stories I will publish myself.

My other personal search is for the perfect piece of chocolate. Well, not really, but a good piece of chocolate is reward for a hard day at the keyboard where I polish, rage, polish again and pound my head on my desk, until that right word pops up and smacks me on the forehead. Love those times, which used to be rare but are becoming more common. Like once a year.

And now you are wondering what the image at the top of this post means. It’s all about searching. I was driving home one cold, rainy day in late January through a monochrome world. Gray skies, black bare trees, large black birds sitting, watching. I pulled to a stop and watched birds land and take off. They were huge. All black. Bigger than a crow or raven. These were black vultures, carrion feeders, that abound year-round where I live in Southwestern Virginia. I find them beautiful. Many people don’t, probably because they look wicked, evil almost. These are part of nature’s garbage disposals, eating road kill.

I watched for about twenty minutes. I don’t know why. Perhaps the birds and I were searching for something. I’m not sure what it was, but the birds were fascinating and beautiful in their blackness.

What are you searching for today?

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Searching

  1. p.s. Just so you know: the first comment I typed–lost forever in Internet Heaven–was composed of complete sentences and perfect metaphors 🙂

    Like

  2. I think that no matter what my search–for the perfect word, metaphor, sentence, sunrise, or fig–I am always, as I wrote a while back, searching for home, for that sense of home, for that moment’s bone-deep certainty that I have come home. I actually called a poet friend, as I was wracking my brain for a metaphor, mid-paragraph, out of ideas, and he found it for me. Is the lesson there perhaps that I don’t always have to search alone? I don’t know about the number of drafts but I know it’s definitely in the double digits. And I edit–my own work or the books I edit for others–by reading out loud. If something isn’t right, I will hear it, like a wrong note at orchestra. I may have to read a paragraph five times or ten to discover which instrument needs tuning, and another ten to “hear” what to do about it. But it works. And that process, in addition to producing a better manuscript, forges some lovely relationships. It really is all good. And C.S. Lewis says the longing is the thing. So another lesson must be to pray we never find that piece of chocolate.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s