Sunday, 6 September 2020

The Nitty Gritty

School was over-whelming this week, so challenging and fun. I worked as a classroom assistant, specifically with two kids who barely spoke English and who were struggling to settle into their new class. We had some bumpy moments, but by Friday they had both smiled a few times and engaged with me. I had a Harry Potter magic battle with one and cooed over puppy pictures with another. We also managed to do some work connected with what the class was doing. I left school elated, exhausted and somewhat disappointed that this is just a temporary gig. But after my frustration with teaching last year, I'm looking forward to the next challenge this school throws at me. 

So I had no chance to write during the week, but I took a lot of time this weekend to focus on editing, submitting and general organising of my poems and collections. I put a joking comment on Twitter about my horror at finding an old poem that used a word three times. It wasn't an important word or done for any particular reason, I just never noticed that I used 'clean' in three different ways. 

I'm sure it seems a minor issue, but my writing group knows it's one of my pet peeves for my own work. I want my words to have some power in their use and I feel overuse weakens that. Three times shows to me that I haven't really pushed my linguistic skills and feels redundant. Was 'clean' a theme of the poem I hadn't noticed, was I trying to express something through my word choice or was I just being lazy? I decided the latter. The poems wasn't affected when I found different ways of saying 'clean' in two of the three spots. 

It made me wonder how many other unintentional 'mistakes' I've missed in my proof-reading over the years. I'm aware I sometimes reuse words or images as themes throughout a set of poems, Do we, as writers, sometimes get stuck on a riff and not notice? 

A mentor I once had wrote a book with an uncommon, but not unused, word in the title. Our group spent over a year working with her, sharing our work and almost all of us somehow managed to put the word in one of our texts, often without realising it. She was hyper-aware of the word, of course, so eventually pointed it out to the class, so I'm sure most of us edited it out. I think her editor eventually changed the title, but it showed how we were sponges at her feet.

Today, I found I used the word 'mossy' in two poems that I would probably later consider placing together. Again, it's no big deal until they are actually sitting in a collection together. They were written about the same time, so I wonder if I had that idea on my mind. One was a mossy carpet and one was mossy light, so different images, but with both were used to suggest overgrown abandoned areas, one from above and one from below. Not sure how or which to replace or if I need to at all, but I love this level of getting down to the nitty gritty of language when editing. 

I didn't get that Editorial Manager job I applied for. We all realised I'm a word person, not a people and process person and they really wanted someone with the knowledge to streamline those rather than edit texts. So I wasn't too disappointed and they said they hope to hire some plain old editors in the future, so my CV is being kept aside. In the meantime, I will continue to play with my own words. 

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