Arizona Journal, Day 3
Yesterday, I took a walking tour of El Presidio, a historic area downtown near the Convention Center. The architecture is beautiful and eclectic, influenced by Native, Victorian, Mission, and Frank Lloyd Wright styles. Many of the houses along Main Street have thick adobe walls dressed up with Victorian gingerbread and lace curtains. I loved seeing the Anglo styles mixed up with desert vegetation: dracaena, saguaro, prickly pear.
In the cool, tiled courtyard of the Pima County Courthouse (pictured), I came upon a young guy in gangsta threads with a lowrider bicycle. The wheels were maybe a foot tall, and it was outfitted with leather seat, twisted gold metal trim, and chrome name plates. He wouldn't let me take a picture because he does tours, taking ten of the bikes at a time out to Vegas. A teenaged couple walked up and admired the bike while I plied the guy with questions. He made the seat cover from an old purse; he fashioned a medallion for himself from a gold bicycle chain and scrap leather. When I told him he was a real artist, he said, "Naah, I just get bored."
As I was attempting to peek over the wall of El Presidio Inn Bed and Breakfast, a sixtyish couple emerged from their SUV and motioned me over to the back door of the compound. "Would you like to see the courtyard?" It was lush and beautiful, with fountains and lemon trees. It's amazing what a skirt, a camera, and a hopeful look will do for you in this town. I've met more people here in three days than in three years in Funkytown.
REVISION, OR MURDERING THE BABY
Late last night I had an insight into the revision process. I tend to write short and tight; seven-page stories are the norm for me. Not to boast or anything, but my first drafts tend to be highly polished, allusive, and concise. While I can't spin an action-packed yarn to save my life, economical I can do. People have said to me, Revision must be a breeze for you--your work is polished already. But in truth, revision is hell for me, hell! When your stories are only seven pages long, rewriting is like performing brain surgery on an infant: one tick of the knife, and you've murdered the baby.
Part of the reason I've sent so few stories out is because nothing feels done; half-revised stories lie around my desk like the toaster oven your big brother disassembled when he was ten and never quite put back together. But last night, it hit me: the reason I’ve had such a lack of success with revision is that I try to do too much. I insert a full-fledged scene when a single sentence is all that’s required, I cut a paragraph when a word will do. Part of the problem may be, dare I say it, inappropriate advice; most teachers are used to guiding students who write too much rather than too little. (In fact, most people write too much, rather than too little, a state of affairs I’d give my eyeteeth for). So the teachers advocate a slash-and-burn approach, when, in truth, for work on this scale, tiny adjustments are all that’s required to make a huge impact.
This is a shiny-new, twelve-hour-old theory. I hope I’m right here. It’s not just me who thinks my current revisions aren’t satisfactory; my professors send them back, too. And for the sake of my sanity and self-esteem, I need a publication bad. Any publication at all—at this point, some ten-year-old's Xeroxed zine will do. Know any?