A little revision show…

I talk to a lot of people who want to write. Almost none want to revise. You better start liking it, I say, because it’s the only way. Some writers do more, some less, but all revise. I’m in the “more” camp. It takes me a long time to get to where I want to go. Hence my sluggish pace at producing new work. Here’s an example:


Revision Stuff from Clark Knowles on Vimeo.

Once Upon a Time…

When I was in Richard Bausch’s undergraduate fiction workshop at George Mason a thousand years ago and the dream of being a writer was a ¬†vague longing many years from any clarifying definition, he told us that a writer should absorb at least six writers a year. The verb he chose is important. He could have said “studied” six writers, but that would have indicated a formal, systematic approach. He could have said “analyze” but that would have made the entire endeavor operate in the brain’s logic center and one cannot analyze and create at the same time. Well, maybe some writers can, but not most. By “absorb,” he meant that we breathed in the books, really tried to pull the words into our minds, not to figure out the socio-political-gender specific-economic-cultural significance of those books, but simply to fill our creative selves to bursting with the creative endeavors of those writers we admired, that challenged us, and those books into which we became lost. Only then, he implied, would we understand through some sort of cosmic osmosis how best to reach into our own dreamlike spaces and withdraw that weird mix of memory and imagination necessary of all writers. Only by filling up our tanks would we be ready for what John Gardner called the “lightning strike.” Some call it the muse. Others simply say it’s the fruits of long hours at the table doing the heavy lifting of revision. I’ve allowed a lot of things to break me away from my writing life–positive things, mind you, such as family and resurrecting an old farmhouse and helping students find their better writing voices and helping out my daughter’s softball team and having friends over for no particular reason–things necessary to life, things I wouldn’t do any differently if given the chance. So it’s taken me a long time to get find my own direction in words. But the one thing I’ve always done right, I think, is read. That’s the reason for the photos of all the books. These are the books, most of them at least, that I’ve absorbed. The funny thing is, there are so many great books I haven’t read. Even if I read everyday for the rest of my life, I’d never run out of books. I like the feel of a book. I like the smell of a book. I like how my breath feels as I put my mouth the collection of pages and blow air between them. I hope one day to have a book with my name on it. But I’m okay if that never happens, too. There’s plenty to read in the world.

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Sixth and Final Purple

Thanks to everyone who took the time to listen to my short story as read by yours truly. I love reading aloud and now that my daughter is a bit too old for such things, and since reading one’s work is big part of the writing life, and since finding homes for stories is often quite difficult, it feels like a natural extension to read my work this way. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I plan on continuing the practice. I’m hoping to do a little reading each weekday. I will be adding more of my own fiction, but I will also be reading short pieces from other fiction writers and poems, too. I welcome suggestions. One of the hardest things to maintain as a writer these days is the actual literary life. It’s also hard to get to the desk and do the work in the midst of the daily life of chores, but being a part of the literary community is a whole different endeavor, and necessary in a totally different way. Writing, reading, helping sustain a community in person on online, sharing your work whenever possible, reading or listening to the work of others, buying books, reviewing books, maintaining a presence in the literary world–a sometimes tough mixture of ingredients to develop and maintain. Putting my stories here is one way of connecting. Thanks for helping me along. Next week, I’ll present a very different story called “Houses for the Dead.”


Purple Jesus Part Six from Clark Knowles on Vimeo.