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  • Writer's pictureDana Webster

"So, What I'm Hearing You Say Is ..."

I am assiduously avoiding the task of revising five of my short stories. It's hard work, avoidance. I'm in the final stretch of my pursuit of a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Toronto. Six years of writing, learning, and being graded, and the end is in sight.

This is usually the place for me in any process that involves a success/failure quotient at which I shut down, rail against the unfairness of it all, wallow in self-pity and generally make the life of everyone around me (read: Paul) miserable. I can see my foot hovering above the finish line; it's like I'm frozen in time, and am unable to fully commit to stepping over it.

But there's an upside! I'm writing blog posts. Yay!! Writing anything feels like relevant work. I tell myself I am being productive and hardworking, dedicated and committed. It's an illusion, yes, because all I'm doing, really, is putting off the inevitable agony of the actual task at hand.

Writing is fun. Revision is hell. Revision is work. It feels like a have a job I hate going to everyday. I drag myself to my computer, stare defeatedly at my manuscript and then go do something else. Like befriend a moth.

Writing a first draft is freeing and creative and wide open to a thousand different pathways (unless you're one of those writers who plans everything out beforehand in which case you will have no idea what I'm talking about 🧐 You might even pity me).

I liken fiction writing to therapy. My new "client", my main character, sits across from me, settles in a little apprehensively, and begins to tell me her story - her loves, her hurts, her quirks. As we get to know each other, trust grows and she begins to relax, begins to share with me more deeply of her pain, of what makes her laugh, her hopes and dreams. On my end, I listen, I make note, I gently encourage. It's a dance of vulnerability. I cherish the whole intimate process.

But revision feels, I don't know, dishonouring. Who am I to decide which parts of her story are important and which get relegated to the trash bin? Who am I to shape and mold and structure her story into, perhaps, something that, in the end, barely resembles her original words? Hmm, as I ask myself these questions, I'm beginning to see the answer - it's all in the intention, the core, the heart of the story. It is a re-visioning.

So, to my beloved main characters: Dana (Pile On), Sarah (Mirage), Elise (Flannel Shirt), Emma (Origami), and Ava (Ava), I am doing my best to get your stories right, to honour what you've told me. Bear with me; I'm getting there.

If you're local to Orangeville, writer Anthony Carnovale is offering a FREE series of writing workshops. Check it out: After Hours Write Club

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