Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Writing life

Tomorrow I'll be a guest columnist for Brian Curry in the Long Island Advance. I'll be published for the first time having written something *in my own voice.* No, it's not Newsday or the New York Times, but who's a place to start.

Writing is all about just that, writing and then rewriting, and rewriting again, often times discovering that no matter how many times you’ve printed and read you still sometimes have a stray typo. Or rewriting to the point that the original idea, or piece you started out writing, has become something very different from what you expected it to be.

Life is sort of like writing. You start out going in one direction, and then at some point in time you’ve found that you’re either completely lost and have no idea where you are, or that despite the wrong turn you took three, or five or ten years ago, you’ve somehow managed to end up somewhere cool anyway. Life is like writing in the sense that there are things you can change, or do differently, in order to affect the outcome of the story. You just have to be brave enough to do them. To risk rewriting a story that is not going in a direction you intended, or expected, or wanted.

I’m not really sure how novelists do it. Do they see the whole picture in their heads and write their way to the end? Or, do they just sit down and start writing, hoping the story will end up somewhere? The nice thing about writing is if you don’t like the direction you’re taking; you can throw the piece away, or hit the delete key and start over. Life is a little more difficult to rewrite though. It takes effort and can be dramatic and heart breaking, yet often times, the rewards can be great.

I’m spending a lot of time rewriting these days, articles, essays, term papers and my life. The rewriting on paper, or in my case, on a computer is much easier than the rewriting of my life. Changing the outcome of a life story is much harder than catching those annoying typos, or eliminating a line or a paragraph that just is not working. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. It is worth taking the risks and chances that are necessary to write a great article, or essay, or book, or even a life.

No, I can’t hit the delete key, or go back and erase, nor actually would I even want to, but I can choose to take my life story in a different direction. I can keep some of the old characters and many of the story lines, add some new ones, and not continue to develop others. Sometimes writers block gets in the way, which is where trips to the gym help, as are reminders to do things like breathe. But, despite the stumbling and writer’s blocks, I am writing myself into a new life story that I could never have imagined before. Just look at where this piece of writing ended up. I have just written a guest column for Brian Curry. I’ve somehow managed to write myself here, so I guess I’ll just keep going. I’ve always just taken life as it comes and never really given any thought to the direction my story was heading. Now, I’m visualizing what I want it to look like and will write my story in that direction. Sure in life, as in writing, there will be stray typos and deleted lines and paragraphs along the way, but it’s all about the rewriting anyway.

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