Carolyn Porter | Gleam and Glow: The art of polishing
A reflection on the process of polishing a manuscript.
Writing, Polishing, Manuscript, Carolyn Porter, Marcel Heuzé, Marcel Heuze,
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Gleam and Glow

September has been a month of polishing: polishing the proposal, polishing the first chapters of the manuscript. I’m even enrolled in a class called “Punch & Polish” at the Loft Literary Center.

All of this polishing led me to think about a silver tea set I inherited from my grandmother. I don’t know I’ve ever actually used it — it’s fancier than how I take tea (which is usually half-awake, in my pajamas with bed-messy hair) — but it’s inside my kitchen cabinet on a shelf above the dinner plates. I see it every day.

I polished it once, years ago. It took hours, and by the end my arm ached. It gleamed and glowed for a few days, then I set it back in the cabinet. The tarnish has fully returned; the teapot, and sugar and milk bowls still gleam, though they shine like a wet black stone quietly hinting at some long-hidden beauty. Will I polish it to a bright silver again someday? Maybe.

The teapot came to mind because polishing is a never-ending task. It offers momentary completion, but as soon as you stop, tarnish begins to build again. And that also seems to be true for writing. Every time I open up the manuscript, paragraphs need to be burnished; sentences need to scrubbed. Will the manuscript gleam and glow someday? Perhaps, with more elbow grease.

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