I can’t look you in the voice.

Posted on 12 July 2011

This telegram, sent by Dorothy Parker to her editor in 1945, delights me to no end. In that tortured writer-trying-and-failing-to-revise type of delight, that is.

Last weekend I wrote pages and pages of new scenes for my novel, including dialogue that I agonized over. Then I deleted it all. Oh, Dorothy. You knew what was up.

I received a telegram once. Or maybe twice, come to think of it. Peter sent me a few when I was studying in London — as a novelty more than anything else. I’m pretty sure he filled in an online form and then they printed it and delivered it to my flat, maybe even via mail, who knows. I saved it in this embarrassing scrap book full of all my ticket stubs, play programs, my tube pass, and the prescriptions from German and Italian doctors when I got tonsillitis while traveling around Europe.

I didn’t write much in London, except for overly detailed journals (as always) and a few things for a creative writing class at what was then the University of North London. I remember writing a short piece about a Beatles song, for some reason, and another time the professor asked everyone to bring in a personal photograph and write about it. I picked this one. Seems strange, now, to think that I brought this picture across the ocean. That I brought anything at all, including myself.

And now I must return to my incompetence. After all, I never have so wanted anything to be good.

How’s your incompetence coming along?

Photo: Nancy Campbell


7 responses to I can’t look you in the voice.

  • Averil Dean says:

    “. . . a pile of paper covered in the wrong words. . . .”

    That about sums it up.

    This is my favorite post of yours, ever. I almost wrecked trying to read it in the car.

  • I opened my WIP document and never went back to it. I’d say I’m as incompetent as ever.

  • Paul says:

    My writing? Every day is a struggle, which I hope means I’m on to something.

  • Dorothy’s note is so heartbreakingly true. Thanks for posting it. “I can’t look you in the voice” is my new favorite line.

    I never know what to do with the orphan words. All those scenes and pages removed from the manuscript get lumped into one file, one stack of sad paper. I suppose I should delete it, recycle it, and move on but I can never bring myself to do it.

    • I’m saving the deleted scenes (from this latest draft, anyway) in a special folder. I title each document something like “deleted scene where Opal freaks out and makes phone call from bathroom.doc.” Often, if I’m worried I’ll have a hard time letting a scene go, seeing my miserable little summary makes it a lot easier.

      I don’t even think about deleting those files, at least not at this point. Saving them in a separate folder is a way to feel safe enough about it to actually move on.

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