Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why I Write. And Then Revise: Chloe Yelena Miller

Following Sharon Rainey's post on this topic last week, here's local writer and blogger Chloe Yelena Miller. She blogs here (and you can also find the link on our blog roll below).

A therapist once said I “catastrophize.” As in, I see the world in
terms of catastrophes and behave accordingly. Without this search for
safety, would I be able to write? It motivates me and allows me to
organize chaos before crafting something new.

I write first to remember and stave off future memory losses. In
seventh grade when my best friend died, I started to write regularly.
I filled up dozens of journals about her, things we did together, and
worked to understand death.

Writing is a form of understanding, no matter how slow. By straining
your words, ideas clarify. Editing and revising these early,
instinctual pieces allow a more public art to develop.

Yes, I’m still fairly certain that bad things will happen. If I don’t
check that loose plug, then I might cause a fire. If I don’t check the
oil in my car, I might get in an accident. If I don’t write, I will
misunderstand something and, even worse, forget it.

When I write, a certain peace comes over me. I can mold a world with
clarity, instruction and safety. I can remember without fearing
forgetting something. Someone. I unravel human truths – the ones
others might be able to connect to – and fictionalize details to
eventually present a crafted version of that truth.

Years ago, perhaps while catastrophizing, I decided that I did not
want to die without having at least tried to be a poet. Yes, I was
that dramatic. I applied to graduate programs, a second time after
being rejected the first. My fears were my motivation and they helped
to make me move forward.

As poet Thom Lux used to say in a graduate writing workshop at Sarah
Lawrence College, we are the “little gods” of our writing. We create
worlds. I appreciate the order, linear or non-linear, of each piece I
slowly develop, edit, revise and submit.

There is a difference between my private writing, those early drafts
that are quite personal, and the later, revised pieces that I craft
for a larger audience. After all, if I didn’t revise, I’d
catastrophize about … well, the list is long.

Back to writing and revising.

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