MONTPELIER, VERMONT: “We have this whole thing wrong,” acclaimed memoirist Patricia Hampl told us, jolting the group of eight writing students to attention. We were having a private consultation with the visiting writer here at my MFA residency at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Patricia, a woman whose prose often is meditative and tranquil, was worked up.
What had riled her? The negative perception of revising work she sees in the writing community. “We write a first draft and then we revise it,” she said. “With the first draft we say ‘Write it,’ but with the revision we say ‘Fix it, stupid!’”
The idea that we need to “fix” our prose suggests it is broken, Patricia said, calling that mind-set both “mean-spirited and false.”
“Don’t think first draft,” she told us. “Think generating. And don’t think fix it, stupid. Think re-vision.”
Any piece of prose–or painting or musical composition–has a starting point. After that, we just continue to find new ways of looking at what we’ve generated. I like that.
What are your thoughts?
ABOUT THIS SERIES: As promised, I am posting occasional “nuggets” of wisdom I am acquiring here at my second residency in the MFA for Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Previous posts include “Illuminating Your Story,” “A Window on Your Narrator,” “Creativity and Wasting Time,” “New Year’s Tradition,” “Storytelling vs. Fragmentation,” and “Reading Your Work Aloud.”