One of my friends used to say that she did not like relationships because they showed your faults writ large. There you are with the other person all the time and you are forced, eventually, hopefully, to take care of your shit—to acknowledge that you do XX and to try to improve or risk losing the relationship.
This is not unlike examining a full draft before sending it to a friend. I won’t lie, the draft was a mess. There were a thousand places where I did not smooth out my grammar tics (and yes, dear reader, I have them). There were more critical places where I did not make the connections I needed to in order to justify why I talked about pink polka-dot high heels on page three and then went right on to talk about corpses on page four. (Oh, maybe that’s because you’ll make me wear pink polka-dot high heels over my dead body.) You get the idea.
One of my friends critiqued an essay of mine the other day.
Friend: You can’t just end so abruptly. You need more.
Me to Friend: I could see that.
Me to self: But I like the abrupt ending; I’m leaving the last image in the reader’s mind.
Friend: It’s a poet ending.
Me (trying to sound contrite): I know.
Friend (not fooled by my polite responses): Here’s the difference between essays and poems, Clause. [She calls me by my last name.] You can trust people who read poems to do the work of reading a poem. But you can’t expect that from essay readers. You have to give them more information, lay it out on the page, make it circular. You might feel as if you’re beating it to death, but trust me, your readers need it.
Me: Fuck. You’re right.
Friend to self: I know.
I did not do the work of laying it out on the page. But that’s okay. That will probably be the work of my next draft. Sending out my draft made me realize how shitty the draft was. There was repeated text, and unexplained thoughts. However it was 258 pages of shit, and by god, it will get better.
There are questions that remain, big shadowy scary questions such as: Am I smart enough? Did I gloss over the hard parts? Is there a compelling arc? Is there an arc at all? How do I add an arc if there isn’t one already? Where the fuck is Noah when you need him?
How does your draft look from here?
PS This blog post is dedicated to one of my lurkers, whom I hung out with last night. If you see him, ask what the Saint Louis Gateway Arch is.