October 4th, 2012

The Same Only Different

I have the gift and the curse of usually liking my own writing. If I was interested enough in an idea to write a full story about it in the first place(not the little abandoned snippets that litter my Word files), I’ll pretty much always consider it worth revising until someone else likes it too. This is a gift because it encourages me to keep on with stories that have a lot wrong with them, but a curse but I can waste a lot of time on something better left in the archives.

As I approach the fabled mid-thirties, I’ve found another wrinkle in this pattern of constant revision–my voice is changing, or rather has changed, a great deal. Well, a great deal to me–I find even the contrast between some of the stories in *Once* versus *The Big Dream* pretty dramatic, but I don’t expect anyone else to notice or care. But it’s one thing to read two stories written 5 years apart and notice a difference–it’s another thing to delve into a story written years ago and try to live inside it to a degree that I can write that way again.

And in truth, I don’t go back so terribly far. I’ve always written stories, but I rarely return to ones written before 2005-2006. There are simply issues of quality I cannot overcome in most of the stuff written prior to then, and issues of deceased hard drives don’t hlep matters. So really, we’re talking max 7 years, here. Have I really changed that much? I guess so. I’ve done it before.

The oldest short story I’ve published (that doesn’t qualify as juvenalia in some way–like being in teen anthology) is “If This,” originally written in 2000, published in The Puritan in 2009. It was one of pretty much two things that I wrote in university that anyone else ever understood, and I really wanted to see it published. But revising it was excruciating–my mind just doesn’t work that may anymore. Back then, I was writing in a style I named myself (I think?) called hyper-lyric. It was a maximalism, periodic, involuted style that was only one of many reasons most people found my work hard to follow, but I loved it and writing that way made me happy.

It no longer does. I wander into periodic sentences now, and then I try to get them out in the second drafts. I always want to say it more simply, and I actually think I am far more pretentious in conversation and personal writing that I am in fiction (I’d never use the word “involuted” in a story). I was never aware of jettisoning the hyper-lyric style, or whatever that was if you don’t accept my imaginary terminology, but it sure is gone now. I still *like* that story, and a number of others I’ll never be able to repair enough to publish, but I no longer possess the mind that wrote them. Weird, eh?

So revisions become a race against, well, not the clock but the calandar, anyway. These days, between work on the new stuff, I’m trying to revise work from that 2005-2006 period and send it out before I become so different from the lady who wrote them that I can’t revise them anymore. Am I being melodramatic? Maybe, but really, anything to encourage myself to work, right?

Anyway, all this is in my head today because an older story that I revised pretty heavily this past spring, called “Anxiety Attack,” has been accepted by Freefall Magazine, which makes me really happy. I’m so pleased that that story will get its crack at being read by a wider audience than me, and I’m glad some else agrees that it’s worthwhile. And I guess I’m glad too that this proves the slog of revising older pieces is worth it, at least sometimes. “First Afternoon,” another revisited and revised story, will appear in The Windsor Review next spring, too.

And the race against the hands of time continues…(another thing I’d never write in a story)

2 Responses to “The Same Only Different”

  • saleema says:

    I love imagining what the ‘hyperlyric’ must have been like! (Frankly, I think I would like it.)

    I’m really encouraged to hear it’s possible to bring stories forward like this! I recently decided to (try) to put together a linked story collection…at some point in time…and going through my existing MSS, I was surprised by how many stories I have lying around that I had at some point deemed not worth sending anywhere. (Not surprised by their mediocrity…but by how many there are, as I’m not terribly prolific.) I thought I had one or maybe two that were salvageable, but as I read them over, I kept thinking that if I changed ALMOST everything, but not quite, maybe there was something worth keeping, in this one, and this one, and this one.

    I’m going to keep at it…

  • Rebecca says:

    Hey Saleema,

    It’s difficult but definitely doable! Maybe like reconnecting with a friend you haven’t seen in a long time–so awkward and strange to not really know him/her, after knowing this person SO well before. But after a while, the old familiarity returns and you can speak in that voice again.

    At least, that’s been my experience.

    Good luck!!

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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