When I was in my MFA program, I felt like the luckiest person in the world. My classmates were amazing, my teachers brilliant. My job in that course of study was to learn, as best I could, how to build a story. Ann Hood told us that whatever our latent talent, we were there to learn how fiction works, and how and why it doesn’t. She taught us to be merciless with the things we thought we’d been so clever about, and, in short, to blow them up.
Joseph Conrad reminds us that revision literally means to see anew. Ann might say that revision isn’t a necessary evil but a necessary good. Someone else said “anyone can write, but only a writer can revise.” Most honest writers will tell you that the story is really written in the revision.
Beginning writers sometimes feel so beholden to their initial muse that they mystify everything and end up producing very little. Writing is a craft. Yes, it requires inspiration. There are days when I stare at the page or the screen and do very little with my hands. Then there are days when the ideas and language flow. I can’t control which day is which, but I can do by best, on the slow days, to prepare myself for the fast ones. The later are more thrilling, for sure. But they don’t come without the former. Feeling stuck? Read a book. Watch a well-written show. Listen to a song that keeps raising the narrative stakes.