the tamago report

Eggs benedictated

Tag: drafts

Rewriting Everything

by MDY

There are some things which cannot be salvaged. Being able to identify these “irreparables” is a matter of painful experience: there’s no more heartbreaking lesson than spending days trying to correct a piece of prose and finding it even worse off by the end. The only solution is to kill what you have birthed, and recreate it anew. My most recent short started out as a vignette of international migration and intergenerational incomprehension; but the premise itself (stamp-shopping and coffee in Geneva) was so bland that the dialogue and description simply had nothing to support them. So I killed everything past the first “boat” scene – which I knew worked, because it was different versions of me spliced into a single scenario and when you’re writing yourself you tend to capture the truth of things far more achingly than otherwise. And then I spun it out into something completely different. I used to be a fearful kid – fearful of deep water, and caterpillars, and making mistakes. I still am, but I realise other people are too. Our best art – and our best decisions – often stem from knowing when to hold on and when to let go and when to come back once more.

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Keeping what you write

by MDY

Think of it as an intellectual investment. In my last year of high school, shortly after our Final Finals had been finalised, I went through a short-story phase. I recently came into contact with them again when putting together a short collection, at which point they surrounded me and accosted me with haranguing tones:

“What is this, Days of our Existential Lives?

“Your dialogue sucks!”

“If you ever mix a metaphor like this again…”

I told them that I had reformed and would never commit such crimes again, at which they folded back into the paperwork with more than a little grumbling and alliteration. More than any lesson-plan or lecture, they taught me how writing is a craft of details. Some of the most valuable fossils discovered by palaeontologists are also the smallest.

Think of it as a monetary investment. My plan is that once I become famous off the sale of children’s books, those initial scribblings and half-baked plotlines will gain rapidly in market value and allow me to make a small fortune through Sotheby’s, or at least eBay. As being a writer is synonymous with half-baked poverty (and potatoes – the staple of the insolvent, except in equatorial regions), hoarding up manuscripts and notebooks can prove a veritable treasure trove of future value. That’s why I always hand-write.

Think of it as an emotional investment. If and when I have children, I plan to read them The Little Chef while they’re little, even if (most likely) I wince at the rhymes and similes that only break down in hindsight. Not just because it will save me buying new books for them (selling one’s notebooks only works for so long), but because the Chef and her friends are a part of me that I won’t ever want to forget. More than any report or resumé, they – and all the stories before them – taught me how writing defines who we end up being. As being a writer is synonymous with belonging to both future and past, retaining trace elements is sometimes the only option.