Every writer has access to infinite possibilities of word arrangements

This always happens to me when I’m immersed in the writing process. The intent is always the same, to create the best draft. But I never know how many changes it’s going to take for me to say, This is the final version, and to actually mean that.

I’m working on a batch of poems I wrote years ago with the intent to finalize them. I concluded that it was necessary that years pass before I picked up those poems again and write their final versions. I was more confident in the revision/editing process this time around. I noticed I revised and edited quicker and better trusted my intuition when making those revision and editing choices. I was able to see what lines needed to be taken out. I say taken out because I didn’t delete them. I just piled them on another page in case they’re useful in the future.

I was better able to hear and see each poem’s foundation and heart. I felt more confident in bringing forth their individual meaning and beauty. Whereas before, I questioned my revision/editing choices a lot. I felt more comfortable with changing the title of a poem or leaving it untitled if I felt like it didn’t have the right title. I was able to take out many chunks of lines and words that weren’t needed with more confidence. I’d never done this with my poems before. I sometimes wondered if I was wrong for not finding ways to keep some lines when the lines decreased dramatically. Yet, after I removed the lines, I realized that I was still keeping the poem’s message.

Then I applied more writing strategies that have stuck with me over time. If I noticed that some consecutive lines didn’t have an image, I tried to figure out what image I could use to express an experience. For example, what image could I use to describe a sleepless night? I asked myself what’s the right word for what I’m trying to say here? Do I use selfless or virtuous? Do I use old or past? Do I use dull or mundane? I asked myself: how many adjectives are enough, do I use a or the, do I capitalize this letter or not, where can I add sound in this poem, and can I come up with an original way of saying things that have already been written about?

Sometimes I think that I won’t be able to find the right words to say what I want to say. I think that I’m not the writer who can write something extraordinary. Sometimes after waiting a bit and experimenting with the words, I end up surprising myself with what I write. I say this as evidence that every writer has access to infinite possibilities of word arrangements. 

What are your go-to revision and editing strategies? How has your writing process changed over the years? How do you know that you’ve completed the final draft? Leave me a comment. I’d love to talk to you about the writing process! 

With mucho cari​​ño,

Andrea

On Polishing Dusty, Old Poems

Last week, I felt a desire to finish two poems that had been in the draft folder for more than a year. Finishing these two poems allowed me to let go and move on (hopefully into more poetry writing).

One poem is about my experiences of working as a pharmacy technician and the other about how thoughts can keep me awake at night and how they sometimes become louder than the sounds coming from the world. They’re written in a stream-of-consciousness style.

Polishing & Submitting

These poems were inspired by a poem I’ve mentioned quite a bit on this blog: Louise Gluck’s “October”. Gluck uses the questioning technique throughout it. The two poems that I wrote also use questioning. I’d stacked a lot of questions, and I decided to connect the questions with commas, so that there’s only one question mark until the end of the poem. I did this after reading advice from an editor who said that connecting all of the questions with only one question mark would have a better effect.

Blogging has taught me so many lessons (I’m hoping to post about this soon), and one of them was a renewed confidence in my writing which seems to also be impacting my poetry writing. I’m starting to feel okay about writing bad poems again in hopes that with showing up, polished poems begin to form.

When I revise and edit poems, I usually record myself. I listen to the recordings to find the lines that I want to edit or revise. I worked on them last week, and the results were poems that feel as polished as they’re going to get.

After the polishing, I decided that it was time to submit them to literary journals. These poems don’t feel mine anymore, and I have faith that they will find a home. After submitting what felt like a million job applications in the past two weeks, submitting the poems felt like a much easier process. The submission process usually calls for a short cover letter and a bio in addition to the pieces one submits.

Connections

I’m finally finding some things that link the small collection of polished poems that I’ve accumulated so far. For one, I seem to be addressing specific people or groups of people in my life. One poem is addressed to my father, the other to my mother, and another to my students. I’m not surprised to find that I’ve been writing letter poems. I have always been the quiet one, better with words on paper, and I show my love better through actions than through physical touch.

Image by Cina Erikson from Pixabay

When I go from poet to analyzer of my writing, I see that the poems are not poems. They are letters from the heart. Some of them include emotions that I still don’t feel capable of expressing in the real world.

Some of the poems are also full of questions that at one point I felt that I didn’t have the answers to. To a certain extent, I still don’t. Maybe in letting go of the poems, I’m letting go of the questions and accepting the questions without the need for answers.

Friday, March 29, 2019

3 Benefits of a Writing Critique

Waiting on a critique of my writing caused me anxiety last October. I had built up the courage to submit the poems to an online program called The Bridge by Brooklyn Poets. I regretted submitting them for critique within the hour of sending them. I wondered what the poetry editor would think of my work considering her experience and publication history. As I waited to hear back, I reread the poems I’d submitted. I reevaluated their quality and doubted my work. But after I read the critique, I stopped regretting my decision.

The following are three benefits I experienced from submitting my poems for critique which I believe can apply to all types of writing not just poetry.

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