Earlier this term I was meeting with a kick-ass student writer whose story had recently been workshopped. We were discussing what had come out of the workshop--the stuff that had been useful, the stuff that was maybe a little less-than-useful--and at one point she said, "I don't know. I really don't like this story." I wondered what she meant, because I thought the story was really quite decent, so I asked her as much. She responded by saying that even though the story had been through a number of drafts, she only ever really remembers the first draft of any story, and that the first draft for the story we were discussing was terrible.

I thought this was incredibly odd, though definitely worth thinking about. For me, by the time I get to a finished draft, I've wholly wiped out whatever existed before it. I tend to forget that the story had a different beginning, the sentences were sloppier, that some character hadn't even been a part of the thing.

Because of this, I also tend to often censor myself and/or have a hard time getting started on early drafts, because I think they're absolutely terrible compared to the last thing I was working on, even though, in actuality, that old, finished story was easily as terrible in its early stages as the thing I'm currently working on.
* * *
Friday, I went to see the poet Jen Tynes, an alumna of the school where I teach, read. She was pretty great--and she writes just the kind of poetry I really like to read/listen to.

At any rate, I was listening to her read, and at one point between poems, I looked out the window near where I was sitting. The building we were in was old, and had those old, warped windows. It got me thinking about a story I might like to write, and so I pulled a manilla folder out of my bag and wrote down:

"We lived in a house with those panes of glass that are warped.

wavy world

[something personal]

We didn't know what we were doing.

We expected to look outside and see x

just a tree, a sidewalk, a man walking his dog"

So that was the beginning of the thing. Later that night, I sat down without the above notes to work on the story that I had kind of begun working on. After a couple more drafts, here's where it currently stands.
* * *

The house’s windows were old, warped—nothing looked right through them.

We were curious enough to look it up on the Internet at the library, and we learned the wavy outside we saw was caused not by the flow of glass over time—by years of a gradual, continuous, invisible trickle—but by the glass’ imperfections. A perfectly flat pane of glass, we found out, wasn’t invented all that long ago.


I finished another revision of this and have since decided to send it out into the world, so I'm pulling it from the blog. Should it appear anywhere, I'll be sure to let y'all know.


fringes said...

My writing life is over.

heather said...

wow! what an introduction. damn fringes! you've got to warn a girl!