There’s an old idiom that feels appropriate to me this week: “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” I’m not sure who said it or why, but obviously they weren’t talking about writers. Right now, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, and the thing is, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
As I write this most of the eight ladies are cranking out words and sentences and scenes (100 pages worth) in order to finish off the last assignment in our first McD workshop class. A rough draft of Act I is due and for most of us, it’s the first major chunk of writing we’ve had to turn in. So for the past week and half I’ve spent every waking moment writing the remaining scenes that will finish out my Act One, and it’s starting to feel like I’m cranking out sausage. And like sausage, what I’m turning out right now is a slapdash mess of everything my fried brain can serve up and then smush together. I can’t help thinking that most of the ingredients belong in the trashcan–like the stuff that goes into ground pork.
Which set me to thinking. During the McD class on publishing one of our assignments was to determine the kind of writing career we wanted. Someone mentioned an up and coming author (who I used to love) who was told that she had to turn out more than one book a year if she wanted to hit the NYT best seller’s list . Well, she’s churning out three books a year now (no, she’s still not on the NYT list) and her writing is suffering for it. Her formerly sparking characterizations and fast moving stories are now bogged down in oodles of backstory and chat, with little conflict. I thought of that poor unfortunate wretch this week as I worked to get my pages done and made a promise to myself. If (when) I’m published I will resist all efforts designed to turn me into a sausage grinder—including my own ambition.
Right now, I’m looking forward to finishing my little sow’s ear because after that, I’ll start the process I truly love: editing it, reworking it, and rewriting it until it turns into a purse. Okay probably not a purse, but something that shimmers a little or at minimum doesn’t stink like a piggie.
So here’s to all the writers who are grinding out pork this week: fear not because while that old idiom is partially true, it’s also incomplete when talking about writers. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear UNTIL you produce the pig. So, just crank it out everyone. Crank it out.