Verbal Vomiter

Posted by on Jan 14, 2008 in Writing | 3 comments

irisflower1.jpgOver the weekend the sun revealed itself, I received several healthy doses of vitamin D, and I bought myself a bouquet of lilies. This morning, I stumbled out of bed and proceeded to write with zero fuss. There must be a correlation.

The writing went well, but rereading the pages just now, I’m unsure how much I’ll keep when I start revisions. Especially a bit of description that might slow down the scene. But that’s okay. During revisions I might cut the description entirely — or cut the surrounding text and move the description to a better spot in the story. Who knows? I don’t — yet.

Thinking about this reminds me of a woman I met at Baker & Spice on Saturday. I noticed her journal when I sat myself down with my bread pudding. She filled the pages with petite script that I could tell was legible. Her words marched in straight lines with no cross-outs, corrections inserted between the lines, or scribbles in the margins.

Along with her tidy handwriting, I also noticed cool pasted-in items such as ticket stubs and postcards. When I commented on this she mentioned that she rarely writes because of writing anxiety, which (if I understood her correctly) prevents her from writing anything down unless it’s perfect.

Me, I’m the opposite. I call myself a verbal vomiter, and my journals are messy like my first drafts. I suppose my tolerance for messiness allows me to be okay with the pages I wrote today. I can let them go for now, because I know I’ll tidy them up later. As a verbal vomiter, I end up with lots of material to work with, that’s for sure.

In fact, I’m basking in the glow of validation. The book I mentioned on the My Current Reading List post, A Perfect Mess, coins the phrase useful mess. Yes!

3 Comments

  1. I vomited quite a bit this morning — projectile vomit, I guess you could say. To tell you the truth, most of it looked better coming out than it did going in.

    As usual, I’m sure it will stink in the morning.

    (My sincerest ‘pologies if I’m stretching this metaphor too far.)

    P.S. Hi! Glad you’re feeling better! Let’s hang out some time.

  2. It was a pleasure to meet you last week, Lisa.

    Here is the excerpt from the NYTimes Book Review–early-to mid-90’s, entitled “Word Floods and Droughts”:

    Forget the old categories. There are really just two kinds of writers: “gusher” and “tricklers,” divided by the manner in which they approach a blank page. That’s what Robertson Davies discovered by reviewing a volume of author interviews. This is from his essay collection “A Voice From the Attic: Essays on the Art of Reading” (Penguin).

    Thurber was a gusher; for one story which was 20,000 works when finished, he wrote a total of 240,000, and fifteen different versions. It is interesting that the torrential Thurber is the one who talked most about that dread of all writers–drying up….Frank O’Connor was also a gusher; he rewrote some of his stories even after they had been published. The tricklers may be represented by William Styron, who says: “i can’t turn out slews of stuff each day. I wish I could. I seem to have some neurotic need to perfect each paragraph–each sentence, even–as I go along.” Dorothy Parker, also a trickler, said: “I can’t write five words but I change seven!” The industry of the gushers commands respect; Joyce Cary, Frank O’Connor, and Capote–we see them writing and revising, rejecting pages by the handful, and finally piecing their work together from the mass. But the tricklers have an agony of their own; they cannot continue until the last line written is as right as they can make it.

    Happy gushing. See you at the bakery.

    Droughtily yours, Maureen

  3. Nice to hear from you, Maureen! Hope you don’t mind the mention in my blog — I admired your journal, truly. And I always enjoy a good conversation about books and writing, especially coming out of the blue like that.

    I think I’ll start describing myself as a “gusher” rather than a “vomiter.” Better imagery with the former word…

    See you around!

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