". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, January 5, 2015

Rethinking Rewriting

As mentioned, I have all these pages of content I've written about the books I'm writing about for the List's year in reading.

I collated the content, moved it into a single document, double spaced, etc., printed it out. I've read through the content several times now.

I'm cutting and pasting nothing from these 40 + pages. I'm generating all new text (with the exception of quoted text, i.e. text that is someone else's, and to which attribution is OF COURSE given -- it may be my biggest peeve, people who stick other people's words into their own screeds and pretend they wrote those obviously better written passages that are non-characteristic of their own style and usage -- how stupid do these bloggers think we are?).

This is as much work as writing always is. Why then, am I doing this, I've been wondering. I think I understand enough about writing -- at least about the desire to write as well as one is capable of doing -- to answer that.

The original texts were written over the period of a year. The books written about weren't necessarily considered in context with each other. Stringing them together, connected by short transitional passages, no matter how much restructuring was done, wouldn't work. New structure, organization, and even style are necessary to create a thematic essay. Though this is concentrated work, it isn't as difficult as it could be, but it is time consuming. It's not as difficult as it could be, since these books were read in the first place because they each explore the subject and theme of Mississippi..


This explains why dissertations are repurposed as books, magazine and newspaper columns are collected, so often fail to increase the writers' audience and name recognition. Such books aren't as readable as they could be, and don't provoke the reader to continuing reading the writer.

The writer needs to start over with fresh prose purposed for a fresh audience, not the one for which the original text was written. Reemploying the same ms., or one that is dominantly cut&paste, leaves style and prose without verve and rhythm. When the new text is completely drafted. passages from the original text can / may be inserted, if it belongs seamlessly or illuminates the new text -- but still with some rewriting.

Yet I am so glad to have all those pages from my original takes on the books. They have refreshed my memory as to why I read the books in the first place, and why their connections of emotion and intellect that sparked my own while reading the work was worth the time I invested to make some sort of organized, written response to it.

There are  writers who sneer at the sheer inefficiency of writing so many non-paid words and not re-using them then, even when the venue is paying for words on the same subject and works. But writers are all different, with different goals for their writing, and we all do it differently.

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