Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Samsara and Rewriting

Terri brought up rewriting in her post on Monday which was February 2nd – Groundhog Day. I don’t know if Punxsutawney Pete saw his shadow or not. What I do know is that February 2nd cannot pass without my mind turning to the truly great movie named after the holiday.

Here’s the gist of it. Bill Murray plays an asshole newscaster called to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover Pete’s emergence from his winter lodging. His producer is the delectable Andie MacDowell. He leers and lusts after her, but gets nowhere. All he wants to do is get out of the hick town, but he and the crew are snowed in. When the alarm wakes him up in his hotel bed the (next?) morning, it’s not February 3 as one would expect, it’s Groundhog Day again. Same thing the next day. And the next. Eventually, he tries living each day a little better. He catches a boy falling from a tree. He saves a man from choking and feeds a homeless man. He learns to play the piano. He’s nicer all around. Finally, when he’s reached his potential, when he’s as good as he can be, the next day finally arrives.

I was discussing all this with my 19-year old, #1. She pointed out it’s just like writing a book. You start with a piece of dreck as bad as Murray’s life. Then you get to the end and have to relive it all again as you write the next draft. And the next. You only get to stop when you have made your manuscript as good as you can make it. Then like the Bill Murray character, you get to move on. (Not to the next day but to your next manuscript.)

Angela Zito, a co-director of the Center for Religion and Media at New York University, said that “Groundhog Day perfectly illustrates the Buddhist notion of samsara, the continuing cycle of rebirth that Buddhists regard as suffering that humans must try to escape.” Isn’t that what we authors are trying to do with a seemingly endless cycle of rewrites?


Cricket McRae said...

I like the idea of getting to do it over and over again until you get it right. On the other hand, sometimes I find it difficult to know when I'm done with a writing project -- and I overedit. Then I have to go back and find the draft before I "killed" it.

G.M. Malliet said...

As to Punxsutawney Pete, there seems to be some question about his prediction, since he didn't willingly leave his burrow but had to be dragged out, poor thing.

But it's snowing outside my window right now, for what it's worth.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I love both the movie and rewriting. I'm currenting waiting on Midnight's comments to Odelia #5 so I can sink my teeth back into it and give it another final polish.

Deborah Sharp said...

Guilty as charged, lazy shirker here. My comment is this: I may be a freak, but I like rewriting better than first-time-around writing. Polishing is MUCH easier than creating. Does this mean I will be reincarnated as a groundhog?

Keith Raffel said...

Deborah -- Yes.