Ghost memory

When I started writing, I hated the revision process. I knew it was necessary, as perfect stories do not usually spring, fully-formed, from the nib of my pen, but I still somehow felt they should. I looked at revision as a marker of how far I was from perfect, of how I wasn't yet the writer that I wanted to be. I agonized over drafts, hanging on sentences, trying desperately to get all of the pieces right the first time, to write the story that wouldn't need revising.

I don't think that way any more. A lot of the change has to do with the fact that I am writing more, that I have to write more to keep up with my professional obligations. But it also has to do with the fact that I trust myself more as a writer - I know if I can get it reasonably there the first time, that I can fix it later. I know that even if it is a disastrous hot mess the first time, I have smart writer friends who beta read for me and say helpful things like, "Kat, this is lovely, but you do realize you forgot to put the plot in, right?"

*****

It's winter right now, and the cold seeps beneath my skin, and wakes up my old fencing injuries. The ache in my hip from cracked cartilage, the torn hamstring, the dislocated shoulder. My entire right side reminds me of all the places that got broken at one point. I remember the practices and tournaments I got injured in, or that I trained through. Physical therapy, cortisone injections. I remember the frustration of being weak, of having a body that wouldn't do the things that it had done before, that I needed it to do again.

*****

I usually like revising now. I like the knowledge that I am making my story better and stronger. I like the things I learn about story structure and writing character and my own quirks as a writer when I revise. But there's been a project, sitting on my desk for about two weeks now, and every time I go to start revising it, I turn away. Surely, there's something else that can be written, or maybe my apartment needs cleaning, or anything really.

*****

I know what it's like to come back from an injury. To get strong again. To rebuild the fitness that was lost, to relearn the skills that aren't in practice. To wonder if maybe this time I can't come back, that it was one stress too many, that there won't ever be strength again, or a way of moving through the pain. 

We talk about muscle memory. The actions repeated in training so often that they become ingrained, that we do them automatically. It's why we practice, for hours and hours, over and over. Because if you had to consciously think each time, you'd never be fast enough to win. 

I know what it's like to be in a body that remembers what it should be doing, and can't this time. Not anymore. It felt like being in two bodies at once - the current, frustrated, failed one, and that past Kat, fast and strong and skilled. I got better, but it was a constant fight against myself to do it.

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There are other pieces of us that remember, too. The last time I was working on this project, the one that sits on the floor by my desk in a stack, it was during a period of tremendous stress and upheaval in my career. It was when my darling dog, Sam I Am, had a period of ill-health, and then died. I look at these pieces of paper that represent the broken pieces of a story, and I am afraid of what it means to fix them, because to do that, I need to put myself back into that story, and that has the side effect of meaning that I am looking back at that time, at that past self, and it hurts, and I don't know what the physical therapy exercises are for this.