The revision process.

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‘Creativity’ is one of those words, or concepts, which seems plain enough, even simple, till you start fixing your eye on it. Then, like ‘innocence’ or ‘internationalism’ or ‘love,’ it begins to swell up like a cloud into something that fills the whole sky of meaning, and darkens it, and comes to signify everything or nothing. For it’s almost impossible to think of a human being who isn’t functioning creatively at all times, in order to stay alive. Even when we flake out into sleep, we’re busy spinning fantasies, each unique and different, inventing situations for ourselves and solving them in totally original ways – in order that, when we wake, we can cope with conscious life. And conscious living is the process of apprehending the changing world of our sense at every moment, and reacting by instinct and by thinking to whatever the immediate situation is, in order to eat or plan or make love or walk to the corner store. It requires us constantly to invent, to fashion always new patterns of gestures, or words, or movements, out of whatever kind of a mind and a set of muscles each of us possesses. The outer world is never the same for any two people; and it never stays the same for anybody; we are all originals and forced to be creative to exist. (Earle Birney, ‘Reasons and Unreasons for Poetry’)

Today was quieter. I slept well – finally; thank you, over-the-counter sleeping pill – and just managed to make the breakfast cutoff. I’ve been working steadily on the revisions for the novel, and by the end of the day, I managed to finish revising chapter five. I have a feeling that there will be several revisions, but the goal for the residency is finally falling into place: to make it through the first round, all the way to the end of the book.


Revising is hard. I’ve revised short stories and term papers, sure, but they’re short and self-limiting. Part of the problem is that I put the manuscript away after finishing last year so that I could focus on finishing the MA. And while that was a very good thing, I think I might have a little too much distance from the original effort. So I’m having to move back and forth through the manuscript to make sure that I’m keeping details and facts straight.

Of course, if I didn’t have that problem, I don’t know that I would have worked out this revision method: I’ve got the document open on the computer, a printed manuscript at my side (I liberated an end table in the room so that I have an L-shaped workspace now). A notepad to my left, and a pair of pencils. The writing is done on the computer, but I’m using the commenting feature in Word to make side notes to myself about things to check, the first use of a term or an important concept, and highlighting some key passages as ‘things to think about later.’ Using the comments thing in Word is actually working quite a bit better than I would have thought…it’s not usually something I like to use, but it seems to be perfect for manuscript revisions.


I suppose it’s the equivalent of using sticky notes on the printed manuscript. And I have been, but I ran out today – horrors! – and there are no sticky notes to be had on campus. If you want them, you have to walk down into town and find the stationery store (apparently under the movie theatre?). There’s a roll of tape in the writer’s lounge but I think I’d feel funny about bringing it back to my room. So digital sticky notes are being used instead, and it’s working.

Dinner tonight was beef tenderloin with a sauce, pesto shell pasta and fancy carrots. I went right at 5:30 on the dot and ended up eating alone. Which I felt kind of funny about at first, because I decided not to bring a book with me because I thought there’d be a full table. I sat there regretting the lack of a book to read as I ate my fancy carrots. I’ve been reading a book from the Banff Centre library – lectures given by Earle Birney – and I would have liked to have read it with dinner.

Lesson learned. I’m bringing a book to EVERY meal from now on.