Saturday, November 1, 2008

a new hope

No, I don't mean Barack Obama. I'm talking about my book, thanks to additional feedback from my wombmate. I sent him the rest of the manuscript, and he's been replying one chapter at a time. Tonight, however, he called me and we chatted for at least an hour (if not longer) about it. It's the talking that's made the difference for me. I've hardly talked about this book--especially in terms of content-- w/ anyone, and I've been needing to. Badly. I didn't realize how badly until tonight.

For the first time, I voiced what's been really troubling me about this book, and why it's been so difficult to write (or break through the writer's block): I'm trying way too hard.

He noticed it, too. I didn't even flinch when he told me that my narrative sections were "weak." And most of the criticisms were the typical things I respond to when I'm reading someone's nonfiction prose: too much telling, not enough showing; expounding on unnecessary details while bypassing the necessary ones; and losing one's own authority w/in the body of both the narratives and the lessons. And it's not that I hadn't noticed them myself. I'd been aware of them all along. And yet, I couldn't revise my way out of it. I had no idea how to fix it. I couldn't see past what was on the page.

But he could. So we talked about it. We talked about the writing. We talked about the genres of narrative and memoir and spiritual/inspirational books (even tossed in a little science fiction, too). We talked about the subject matter, and a little bit about metaphysics. We talked about the reader. We talked about rhetorical situation and the appeals (although we never used those terms). I tried jotting a few things down as we talked, trying not to forget the gems. And I got off the phone feeling so optimistic about the project, wanting to get back to work now that I finally had a new, clearer vision. I think I finally know where to go w/ it, how to approach it, how and when to think of my reader, and when to not think of her, too.

I think he may have singlehandedly saved this book from becoming bird cage liners.

My twin brother and I are obviously not identical--physically, we're opposites: he's tall, I'm short; he's got brown eyes, I've got blue; his hair is straight, mine's curly (well, naturally, anyway); he's right-handed, I'm left-handed; he's smart, I'm beautiful... ok, I'm smart too... ;) Actually, I think we're more like complements. We used to call ourselves the Yin and Yang twins (one time we even showed up to a dinner party w/ him dressed in all black and me in all white, unplanned!). He's more on the pessimistic side, while I'm the eternal optimist. His writing is much more elegant, literary prose, while mine is more "popular," and when it comes to drawing, he's much better at cartoon, or caricature, while I'm better at portraits. What I love so much about this kinship (in regards to writing) is the respect we have for each other as writers as well as readers. He has the ability to see writing in literary form, while I see it in rhetorical form. Thus, when we respond to each other's writing, we exchange these perspectives that result in a more balanced piece once it's finished. What a wonderful gift for us to give each other!!

Besides, he's funny as hell, which is the icing on the cake. And he laughs at my jokes, too.

Obviously, I'm pleased when people tell me how much they like my writing. But when my twin brother tells me it's good, then I know I have arrived. Ultimately, it is his approval, his enjoyment, his laughter that I aim for, despite the fact that we have such different styles. I don't know if he aims for these things from me (if he does, for some reason I don't think he aims quite as high), but I know he values my feedback. It's just as good a feeling when he compliments the quality of my feedback.

So tonight I will go to bed, using the extra hour to process his written comments and everything we talked about. And then tomorrow I'm gonna write. I look forward to it.

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