Tag Archives: mug

Talisman, part II: Revision

new revision mug!

Remember the mug that broke…? The one that was my writing talisman…?

The idea of a writing talisman took the form of 2 Zabar’s mugs in NYC 2 years ago, when my writing (accountability) partner/friend and I were exploring Manhattan. I had vowed to complete a draft of my novel, and she had a deadline to finish her second. We discussed a partnership; she and I would encourage each other throughout our respective novel drafts, and update each other with word counts. We were on a high. We spotted a legion of Zabar’s mugs at…Zabar’s. They were $2/each. It was a no-brainer. We were giddy with optimism. We bought one each. We blessed them. We blessed our novels and our writing.

My Zabar’s mug served me well while I wrote my first draft. It sat, in stoic silence, as I puttered through my draft, and it was there when I, in a state of disbelief, admitted that I had a first draft in front of me.

I left my old Zabar’s mug in California when I moved out to NYC. And bought a new Zabar’s mug. It broke, as if to say it wasn’t signing up for revision. Or as a kind friend put it, “It means your creativity is explosive!” Whatever the case, I freaked out a little.

But then, it turned out that my friend’s mug also broke awhile back; she said she didn’t have the heart to tell me when it had.

Sometimes, the old talisman fulfills its purpose. Sometimes, the old talisman is a $2 mug, and it’s bound to break.

My friend came out to NYC again. We vowed to get revision mugs for our novels-in-progress, both in mid-revision. The revision process is lonelier–there are no clear milestones to mark your way, no word counts. There’s not much a writing accountability partner can do in the revision stage, save for occasional encouragement. For me, it’s real work. It’s working on the stuff that I knew would be hard the first go through. It’s addressing character development and plot holes. It’s holding back on line editing until subsequent revisions. It’s discipline. I need a talisman more than ever.

We got the mugs. We’d forgotten our quest for revision mugs until we stepped into The Strand–and right there, in front of us, were a whole lot of mugs. It felt right. Those were our mugs. The ones with owls on ‘em. I pointed and let out some sort of squeaky sound. The mugs were $11.50/each. “They probably won’t break this time,” I said, in order to qualify the price.

And revision continues.

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Filed under Novel, Revision, Writing

Talisman, Transformed

whoa: my writing talisman

Only last week, I blogged about my writing talisman, otherwise known as my Zabar’s mug.

And just yesterday, while rinsing out my mug before preparing my Mariage Freres tea at my writing spot…the handle BROKE, clean off.

AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

I didn’t scream. There are rules of strict silence where I write. But I did stand there, in shock, staring at the handle in my right hand, the cup in my left.

But I’m also really stubborn. So I continued to dry the cup, and made my tea as usual. And drank from the mug as I wrote….and had a good writing day to boot.

I don’t know what this means–I refuse to believe that my revision is at all cursed. My friends have mentioned that this means my creativity is explosive! Or that it cannot be contained. Regardless, it’s my mug, and it still works, and so far, my writing hasn’t been cursed. Also, the pragmatist in me knows that this is the reason the mugs cost all of $2.

And anyway, Randa and I can buy another pair of matching “writing/revising good luck” mugs when she visits NYC. This time, for our revisions.

If I were to continue my superstition: perhaps the Zabar’s mugs were not meant to be used for revision, perhaps they are only for first draft luck. Because hers broke as well, in the same way, as she revised her book.

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writing talisman

comfy at the WR
(Zabar’s mug, circa January 2011, at the Writers Room)

The creative process is perceived as mystical, and we writers often sustain that perception. Many writers I know refuse to share details about their writing process, and several claim they “never revise,” which I think is an elusive sidestep to the real answer (they probably do), thereby perpetuating the myth that writing is a form of magic, that ideas come out of nowhere, and when they do appear, they do so in fully mature form, requiring no improvement.

In reality, art involves a lot of anguish and sweat…alongside a bit of magic that even the artist cannot explain. I do quite a bit of banging my head against the wall thinking about my characters and story and plot, and a large part of my writing comes from my conscious.

But then there are magical writing days. For me, magical writing involves the transformation of some twisted psychic pain inside my soul into a sincere assembly of words that communicate this darkness. I can’t say I compose those words consciously–I know a good writing day when my emotional psyche drives my writing, and the words start tumbling forth.

Along with that magic comes the talisman; because magic is so inexplicable, superstition naturally enters the realm. Writers are particular about the direction their desks face (some want a window, others want complete darkness, for instance), about what they eat or do not eat as they write (I cannot write on a full stomach; I will write until I am lightheaded but I will not write if I’ve just had a mongo burger), and about a myriad variables in the universe, including figurines that sit on desks as they write (and while we’re on the topic, some prefer to not write at a desk at all, but rather on the subway, or in bed, etc.).

I? I have my Zabar’s mug.

I bought a Zabar’s mug when I was in NYC last with my friend Randa. It was in between giggling fits scaling the entirety of Manhattan that we found ourselves brunching downtown, browsing scotch at a liquor store, at the Yaddo exhibit at the NY Public Library, eating Dominican Food in Washington Heights, and finally, at Zabar’s. There, we saw them: a display of mugs, priced at $2/each. We would write the first drafts of our novels while drinking out of a Zabar mug! (We were both in NYC to do novel research).

I took the talisman to heart. My Zabar’s mug was the materialization of my vow to write and finish the first complete draft of my novel. I took that mug home with me and set it down before me each morning as I wrote, remembering that day in New York, and the vows made. And knowing that Randa would be doing the same, with her mug.

And it happened. With that mug. I completed a draft of my novel within the year. The mug sat with me, and sustained me through the entire draft, filled with decaf Blue Bottle coffee, Mariage Freres tea, juice, or just plain water.

When I got to NYC this year, with the intent of revising said novel, one of the first things I did for my writing was buy another Zabar’s mug (I left the original back in California). All across the entire country, I bought mugs as we drove to NYC, thinking I would find another to accompany my revision; I bought a mug from the awesome Waffle House, among others. But in the end, I wanted another Zabar’s mug to keep me company through revision.

The first thing I did for my writing was to secure a spot at a writing space–after scouting out the Writer’s Studio at the Center for Fiction and Paragraph, I decided upon The Writers Room. These days, I sit at the Writers Room with my Zabar’s mug, as I revise. That mug is my constant, my talisman, what I’ve designated as materialization of writing magic. Most of writing is sweat working and wailing tears and begging waiting…but I don’t think a bit of magic hurts at all.

What is your talisman?

Zabar's mugs

(Our mugs, circa January 2009)

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Filed under Revision, Writing