"Tellers of stories with ink on paper, not that they matter any more, have been either swoopers or bashers. Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn't work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next one. When they're done they're done."
As someone who is usually a Basher, I appreciate the evocative terminology that Mr. Vonnegut came up with. Writing, for me, has usually felt like repeatedly bashing my head against the keyboard to make the words come out. I enjoy writing immensely, but it has always been a labor of love with no shortage of painful, grueling labor. I have always felt a deep jealousy for the abilities of the Swoopers.
This has crippled me as a writer. It comes from a reprehensible perfectionism on my part. When I begin a writing project, be it fiction or non, I typically feel unprepared to write a single word before the finished product is entirely mapped out in my mind. I must have every plot point/argument laid out perfectly, every snippet of dialogue rehearsed before I touch my fingers to keyboard or pen. This involves a lot of pacing back and forth, and when I've paced all that I can in my home, a walk or two.
Finally, a feeling of relief floods through me as I reach the conclusion that, "Yes, I have this thing all figured out. Now the hard part's done. All I have to do now is write the darn thing."
In truth, the fun part is done and the painful part has begun. As soon as I type the beginning of my mental masterpiece, I see what absolute crap it is, beginning with sentence one. I painstakingly edit, sentence by sentence as I write, proceeding at a snail's pace. I usually am utterly faithful to my mental outline as far as plot points/arguments etc., but the language that sounded so good my in head reeks of drivel when I see it spelled out, and so I Bash away. But, staying true to Vonnegut's archetype I usually hardly revise much aside from giving it a quick once-over for typos, especially looking for errors the dyslexic variety that the spellcheckers miss (I am constantly writing form instead of from, for example).
Vonnegut was a Basher, reportedly writing one page at a time, refusing to go on to the next page until each was perfect, often revising a page many times. After finishing a page, he would place it in a drawer and not return to it; when he reached the last page the novel was ready to be sent to the publisher. Vonnegut being perhaps my favorite author, I was quite pleased to learn that this was his style of writing and this information served me well as a justification for my own idiosyncratic habits.
However, I am not Vonnegut. He produced many fine novels and stories using his methods. I have yet to produce anything, despite dozens of ideas and false starts over the years, a few of which I feel may have even ended up being decent had I seen the project through. My writing style has not been conducive to me actually writing anything, and I want to break this trend.
Enter this blog. Everything I've written so far has been typed as fast as possible`, having not really thought out what I will write in any detail, moving quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Admittedly, I then, rather than carefully revising as a true Swooper would, usually immediately hit the "Publish Post" without so much as a read-through. This mostly has to do with the fact that, having a three month old daughter, I have precious little free time these days and I only allot myself so much time to waste on this thing. But if I were writing something more serious and close to my heart than a frivolous blog, I would revise carefully.
The point is, I'm trying real hard to develop some habits of Swoopers. When it come to non-blog writing, I will probably always be a Basher to a degree, but I am trying to use this blog as an exercise in generating words quickly. If I desire to write, which I do, than I need to write and not just think about writing. This means perhaps beginning to write without as clear a mental picture to begin with as I would prefer, and not laboring over each sentence to the point that I never finish anything (my hard drive is filled with the openings pages of aborted writing projects). I need to be less of a Basher. I have much to learn from the Swoopers of the word.
And so, patient reader, forgive me when these blog posts lack a certain polish or perfection. I am viewing them as an ongoing exercise in Swooperism, and little more.