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83. 👂🏽 your ear is your best editor 👂🏽
thinking about joy in the revision process
Hello, and happy Monday.
Although I always now begin my letters to you in this way, it feels so weird to begin with the salutation “happy Monday,” as though everything was ok. (It never does seem to be, but here we are pressing on.) The Russian invasion of Ukraine last week is something that I am still trying to wrap my head around. I’m not an expert in this, and I’ve been doing my best to read news outlets that are giving accurate information. But I’d like to put here something I read from Roxane Gay’s newsletter that seems to capture my feelings about all of this:
On a far more serious note, there is a war happening as Russia tries to invade Ukraine. If he succeeds it will not end there. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating. This is not my area of expertise but I’ve been following Terrell J. Starr on Twitter. He lives in Kyiv. I’ve been reading as much as I can to be reasonably informed and get a clear sense of what I can do to help in some very small way. It is surreal, what modernity offers. There’s a war happening. People are in danger. And I am well aware that the people of Yemen have been dealing with similar encroachments for years. There is Palestine and the impossible conditions Palestinians are living with. There are brutal conflicts taking place all around the world. We learn about them and care about them to one degree or another, while going about our lives, largely unaffected. It’s a bit surreal.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has impressed me. He has real “ride or die” energy for his country. This speech he made to the Russian people was one hell of a speech. On the whole, the Ukrainian people are absolutely keeping it 100.
I hope that no matter where you are, you are doing well. I hope that you are safe and taking care. ❤️
A note of vulnerability to you: February’s really been quite a month for me in terms of work. A lot of things (good things, I promise) have come up very unexpectedly, and as a result, I have been running at full speed and at full capacity for the past two months. It’s been exhausting, and it has caused me to have to prioritize elements of my life more than I would like. As a result, tiny driver’s issues have been less robust than they usually are, which has been difficult for me to accept. I am committed to this newsletter, though, especially the community and joy it brings me on a weekly basis. So, I’ve still made it a priority to come out every Monday, but it might be a bit shorter this week, and potentially for the next week or two, just until I get through some deadlines. I’m trying to give myself grace for this, and I hope that you are able to as well. 💖
✏️ Still processing.
So often, the best things I write are the ones that I can read aloud.
I’ve also seen this to be true in other spaces. Remember that NYT article “Who Is the Bad Art Friend?” I actually listened to the article on the walk from my office back home. I was RIVETED—to the point where I actually continued listening to the rest of the article once I got home (which I think was about 30 or 40 more minutes?!). Yes, the story was wild and interesting and made me think a lot about friendship and community. But, it was also just good writing. The flow of the piece, the pauses built into the sentences, the ways that it engaged the mind of the reader made it seem almost built for someone to read it aloud, rather than on the screen.
Recently, I’ve been revising a shorter piece of writing for work about Iranian students during the Cold War. For some reason, I feel a lot of pressure with this text. It’s a subject that I really care about, and I want to make sure that I do it “right.” Last week, I faced some paralysis with the pressure that I was putting on myself and decided to reach out to a mentor for help. We talked, and one of my major takeaways was the idea that “your ear is your best editor.”
So, I decided to print out my piece, and sit with a marker in hand, reading my prose aloud to hear how it sounded. And it ended up being true. My ear picked up on strange sentence formulations that I likely would have skimmed over had I read it in my head. I picked up on redundancies at the sentence level, and also in terms of my organization. I cut cut CUT the things that didn’t help advance my central argument or through-line in thinking. I was reminded of the ease that I had listening to the NYT article on the art friend (even though the actual content definitely did not put me at ease 🥴). But the words just flowed, and I hope that my writing got a little closer to that last week.
More than just a tactic to revise, the act of reading my work aloud cured my paralysis on some level. Like I said before, I felt a lot of pressure writing this and as I result, I was starting to psyche myself out. I began the work of revising by telling myself: All I have to do is print this out and read it aloud. If I do this, I’ll have done something today. By reassuring myself of this baseline, I was able to start the work. Soon, I found myself enjoying the task of hearing my inflections, the ways that I said certain sentences—I had fun with it! And it was through this act of playing with tonal narration that I was able to hear when things didn’t sound right and make adjustments as necessary. Perhaps it was because of the joy I put into being a little silly—”acting” like a narrator of an audiobook—that some of the pressure was let out of the task.
🌀 Still consuming.
A big thank you to Ryan at Workspaces for featuring my cozy little office (above)! 💓 And a big hello to the new tiny driver subscribers! 🤗
“But from another point of view, this particularly violent open season on trans kids in Texas is part of a centuries’s long record of blood. A record of the state as the abuser, often an abuser who manipulates and pacifies the population by lying to our faces and telling us that the abuse we must inflict on kids is to protect them from the real danger: an immoral, degenerate population of sexual predators.” Jules Gill-Peterson on the state of Texas (literally and figuratively).
Just for the record: I don’t consider myself a content creator. 😬
📖 Book club corner.
Friends! It is time for the next book club pick! Cast your vote below by Saturday, March 5 and I’ll announce the pick in next week’s newsletter.
Which book do you want to read for March book club?
Here’s the event info:
Date & Time: Tuesday, March 29 @ 5PM PST/8PM EST
Suggested Donation (for those able to donate): $3-10 through Paypal or Venmo (@idyalz)
🐶 A pup-date.
Today we bring you a picture of Girlie from the archives. Look at her little sleeping face!! Who wouldn’t be able to resist snuggling up and falling asleep right next to her.
As always, thanks so much for reading through, and I'll see you in the next one!