Sunday, November 25, 2007

words help me graduate

Walking through the Mission tonight, I saw a billboard that said "My friend doesn't know her words help me graduate." Because, you know, graduating is an ongoing act that requires continuous help.

That sentence structure reminded me of my several weeks of trying to sort out French verb tenses. French has only one present tense, whereas English has three (I walk, I am walking, I do walk). Which is why the French sound hilarious when they say things like "I am taking the bus to work" (present progressive; implying that you're doing it or are about to do it right now) when they mean "I take the bus to work" (every day).

Strangely, the billboard message was apropos because I was walking with Lisa and Dan, whose words were a tremendous help this evening when I was banging my head against the back of our cafe booth, trying to edit my story. I told Dan that because I'd written the first draft with no edits, I now had to go back and rewrite nearly every sentence. (My point was that I must've done something terribly wrong, otherwise I wouldn't have to do it all over again.) His response was, "Yeah? So? That's just editing."

Flashback to my best bizarrely reassuring comment ever: When I was 17, I had to have eye surgery. The night before my operation, the woman in the next hospital bed told me some horror story about how, as soon as you're unconscious from the anesthetic, they shove a plastic tube down your throat to help you breathe. This was the part of the procedure she was most afraid of, so she was going to make damn sure the young helpless girl next to her became afraid of it, too.

When the nurse came in the next morning to take me to surgery, I asked if the story were true. She misunderstood which part scared me. "Oh, of course, honey, we'll make sure you have a breathing tube." I found her answer weirdly comforting. Sometimes, all you need is to see someone making not at all a big deal out of something you think is really, really frightening. Suddenly I saw that a breathing tube is an excellent thing to have handy during those times when you're unconscious.

Anyway, that's what Dan's "just editing" pronouncement did for me. Afterwards, I rewrote the first third of my story (complete with my "hey, this is cool, I'm editing" insight). Before, I felt like I'd fucked up my first draft so much that I wanted to crumple my laptop up into a little ball and throw it in the wastebasket. Now I felt like I had successfully passed into phase two: the status-filled editing phase. I got to play with all the words and sentences, rearrange paragraphs, add detail, decide on an interesting opening sentence...and if I didn't like it, I could change it all over again. I loved this "just editing" stuff.

So my friends don't know it, but their words help me graduate.

1 comment:

Paige Lomas said...

you have come such a long way...and I don't even "know" you! Ha...your words help me laugh. (that might be better than graduate)