In the process of trying to tell the story of a certain period of my mother’s life, I’ve written a novel, edited it twice and am now simply re-writing it, referring every once in a while to the most recent draft. The previous versions had a lot of filler, because I wanted to say that I had written ten pages or fifty or a hundred, and re-reading the text, I can see that it is lacking in quality, thought overflowing with quantity.
So, the newest version, the brand-new re-written, not just edited, version, feels thick, like condensed milk or canned tomato soup. It’s rich and strong, but it moves at a slow pace. When not re-writing existing text, when creating brand new words, I find that I can do no more than a paragraph, half a page, never more than two pages in a single sitting. Having been writing this book, off and on, for the past four years, I feel okay with this slow pace. I do not need to move quickly. I do not need to hurry through. I have no set deadline. I have only the distant goal of getting it published in mind.
If I try to tell myself I can write five pages a week or that I’ll finish in 100 days, I end up ignoring the book altogether and, simply, not writing for days on end. Nearly two years out of school, I have rebelled against deadlines. Hand me a deadline, and I will simply refuse to do the work. So, setting my own deadlines proves meaningless.
I am writing condensed text. I am making my best effort to tell a story and not simply transcribe true events. The real story would hurt too many people. Some family members would balk at having their own lives bared before an audience. So, I make an effort to tell a story, to change the order of facts, to make it a book, and not just a diary.
The twenty-eight pages, of a possibly eventual two hundred, consist of some of my best ever writing. So, condensed seems to be working for me.