A Warning: those of you who don’t appreciate scatological humor and analogies should read with caution, but bear with me—there is a reason I’ve written an entire blog about doo-doo.
While helping my brother and sister-in-law move out of their house last week, our friends were laughing and joking about the difference between poop and poo. While at first I wasn’t convinced of either the existence of any such difference or the need for us to recognize and discuss that difference, I would soon learn firsthand just what that meant. We decided that poo, in the end, is simply a messier version of poop—without that bookending “p,” things just fall apart and get exponentially ickier. We continued on, loading the moving truck and carefully avoiding piles of poop, or poo, as the case may have been, in their yard.
After a long day of cleaning and lifting boxes I came home totally exhausted, and opened the door to smell what else–but dog poop. Poor Mona had been left home alone so long that she had a little accident. I should mention that Mona is a well-trained little lady and only in the rarest occasions has had accidents in the house; it must have been an absolute emergency for her. After cleaning it up, I could still smell some lingering remnants of her accident, but searched the whole house and couldn’t find the phantom poop. Several hours later while hanging a mirror in my office, I walked close to the wall and stepped down, barefoot, right into a squishy, cold, hidden pile of poop. I stood there, frozen, as the reality of what had just happened sunk in. While I tried to plan my first move without making things any worse, I came to the realization that my very stepping in the ick had transformed a pile of “poop” into a pile of “poo.” Cleaning up a somewhat contained mess is a much different story than cleaning up something that has been squished into carpet and in-between toes. See the difference?
For those of you on the verge of barfing, wondering what this all has to do with writing, allow me to explain. There are a lot of parts of being a writer that drive me crazy, but revisions are the worst. Some writers slave over every word and paragraph so that their initial drafts are nearly perfect in order to avoid revisions. I’ve found that this doesn’t work so well for me—that I need to let my fingers fly across the keyboard whenever creativity strikes, often leaving me with a big old pile of poop to then go back and clean up into a presentable draft. I’ve often echoed my former professor, Bruce Holland Rogers’, famous phrase of being “in the mouth of the black dog,” when it comes to revisions. But sometimes, even being in the mouth of the black dog doesn’t adequately describe the hell of hardcore revisions.
When working on some MAJOR revisions to my memoir last year, I realized that once I began moving certain pieces around, everything else began to fall apart around them like a Jenga puzzle. Though the original draft was definitely a pile of poop, once I started reworking everything and realized how much nightmarish work was ahead of me, I recognized the draft as being a pile of poo.
My writing partner and BFF, Kelly, has been thrown back into some nasty revisions on her book and as I helped get her revision plan formed, I realized that she, too, had stepped into a pile of literary poop that had quickly become poo. Such is the way with revisions.
When I stepped barefoot into Mona’s dukey, I had no choice but to hop on over to the hose and begin cleaning everything up. Though it took me a moment to form a plan and start moving, working up the motivation to deal with such a gross situation, I was able to eventually plug my nose and get it over with. Like real-life poo, literary revision takes a lot of careful planning and a whole lot of motivation. In the end, it, too, must be gotten over with; revisions are, for me, never fun but nonetheless a completely necessary step. I just have to be careful about where I plant my foot.