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Is Writing a Disease?

January 28, 2010

I have a problem lately. (Lady, you’ve got more than one is what you’re thinking, I know it. Shut. It.) Here’s what I’m talking about. I’ve got Rewriteritis. And I’ve got it bad.

What is Rewriteritis, you ask? Is that like StickittotheManonucleosis? (School of Rock, anyone?) Oh, you mean you’ve never heard of my disease? Well, let’s break it down, shall we? Okay:

Re: from the Latin, meaning again, or again and again, to indicate repetition. Well, no shit.

Write(r): from Latin, to form letters, characters, or words; to produce as author or composer.

Itis: inflammatory disease, abnormal states or conditions, excesses, tendencies, obsessions.
This just makes me laugh, well, obsessively.

See, oh, about going on about a month or six weeks ago I started a short story that just sort of spilled out of me and I thought it was fairly decent (of course, all writers think what they write is pretty good). I’ve been writing since I was a kitten but this is the first year I decided to really focus on writing and get my stuff out there. It’s not that I’ve been afraid of criticism–I have asked plenty of people from various sources to read and hack up my work–it’s just that life got ya know, complicated, and I decided to put writing as a career on the back burner for various and sundry reasons. I sold my soul instead to the giant pharmaceutical companies which hey, paid the bills. Which was fine, really. Until it wasn’t anymore.

I kept diaries as a kid. I kept journals as an adult, throughout relationships, good and bad; jobs, good and bad; meeting my husband, our courtship, wedding, our marriage (going strong seventeen years in); both pregnancies and the raising of our two children, ages 10 and 4; moving west to east and back again; the deaths of those close to me; I’ve got it all down. Some people take pictures and put them faithfully in albums or scrapbooks. That is NOT me. My wedding pictures are still in their envelopes, save a few sprinkled around in frames around our home (and my parent’s, of course). I know it’s pathetic, but it’s okay. I was there; I wrote it all down. I’m good.

But recently writing decided to define me. I say “decided” because events happened this past year that opened up parts of my mind (and oh, that cliche, my heart, ugh) that had not been touched previously. I don’t feel this was a conscious decision on my part because words just come to me at all hours and I have to write them down or sit at my computer and let them come out of me like verbal vomit. Sometimes it’s crap; sometimes I think “hey, not bad, Rach” and I keep going.

So how does Rewriteritis come into this? What’s all this about a short story? Well, I got the bones of this particular story down. I had been thinking about the subject in my mind for awhile and it all came together as I was writing it. It was heartbreaking, meaningful, full of great, you know, for lack of a better writerly kind of word, stuff. Okay, done. Then I started rewriting it, removing anything that would make it sound cliche or overwrought. See, writers have this little thing they use called a thesaurus. You may have heard of it back when you were in grade school. You know, that big book you probably used as a doorstop? The one your English teacher was always telling you about when you thought she was just confused about what period it was and was speaking Spanish instead by mistake? Yea, that one.

So, I use the thesaurus to see if what I’m working on can be improved upon by using words I may find in there but not making it sound like I actually used the thesaurus–tricky. Also, I don’t want to change the meaning of what I’m saying because there’s such a delicate balance to all the elements of the story: a definitive beginning, middle, and end. Interesting characters and dialogue. Setting. Plot. A climax. Thematic elements. Are you asleep yet? Blah blah blah.. That’s just one example of rewriting. I haven’t even covered editing it to fit under 1,000 words. Cutting your story to fit is painful; some writers liken it to cutting off an arm. You can see now why I refer to my Rewriteritis as a disease.

It’s taken me most of the past year to be able to refer to myself as a “writer” without thinking of writing with those quotation marks around it or saying it kind of shyly when people ask what I do or if I work. Yes, I write for two online publications (you can click on the links to left–one is non-paying, one is a penny per click) but I really now feel in my heart (ugh) that creative writing–fiction writing–is what defines me. I love to put words together in a way that speaks to people (hopefully)–I know I have stories to tell and I feel confidant I will tell them properly. I have much to learn. Much to correct. Much to edit.

And much, god help me, to rewrite.

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