Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Letting Go

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Letting Go

Writers are often forced into corners by editors and publishers. We're told to cut our lines in half, remove our adverbs, "kill our darlings" and tighten our writing. The craft of editing has become just as important as writing itself. We're constantly honing our work until it is polished and perfect...or as perfect as it can be.

But the process of writing is anything but perfect. The first character may come to us in the middle of the night- an apparition with a blurry face...a shadow of a person we once knew. A poem may bloom in our mind's eye...a dark flower, an imperfect line. And that is where the magic is. Stories are sometimes buried under rubble and it's often a messy process to unearth them. If we're too focused on what we're looking for, we might miss the glint of a story hidden close by.

There is freedom in letting go, and allowing our hands guide us without our heads getting in the way.

I was recently in Vancouver, gearing up to perform at the Indian Summer Festival. I hadn't met my co-collaborators until the day of the performance. At the soundcheck, I shared my poetry & spoken word, and they responded with sitar riffs and ambient sounds. We had a loose structure, but were open to the possibility of the work taking us wherever it may lead. There was something freeing about not being held down by structure...leaving room for breath and error.

The performance went beautifully, despite us not having ample time to plan it "perfectly". My words remained the same, but the way they were recited and received changed according to the audience and my fellow performers. That's the beauty in performing your work- you're not bound by a book or a set of pages. You can roam freely between what you feel and what you've written.

Letting go of the notion of "perfection" while writing the first draft of your book is a necessity. The editing process will give you enough time to revise and par down your writing. But even after it's been perfected and published, don't let it sit on the page. When you perform it or read it, find ways of re-inventing it. Challenge yourself. It can get pretty boring reading from your own book after the 5th or 10th reading.

Collaborate. Experiment. Bring it back to where the magic began...that apparition in the middle of the night...a blurred face...a dark flower...a faint outline of a poem.

Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions. ~ Earl Gray Stevens

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sheniz Janmohamed

Sheniz Janmohamed is a spoken word artist, author and graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Guelph. Her first book, Bleeding Light (TSAR) a collection of sufi-inspired English ghazals, was published in 2010.

Go to Sheniz Janmohamed’s Author Page