Friday, November 14, 2008

Scraping the Plaque

In which I explain how my dental hygienist is my new role model for revising a book.

My dental hygienist is not afraid of my teeth. She does not stare at them, ignoring them even though she can't stop thinking about them, while she pretends to focus on other things. She doesn't whine about how hard it's going to be before she even starts. She greets my teeth with an eager smile that makes them feel like great teeth. She washes her hands of problems from other patients. Then she grabs the tools she needs, reviews her notes from my last visit, and dives right in.

My dental hygienist does not pussyfoot around. She takes that giant hook scraper thingy and digs into my gums until they bleed. She ruthlessly cuts off the plaque, the tartar, all the nastiness keeping my teeth from being all they can be. She never says, "Well, a little plaque never hurt a mouth" or "But it took so long to get the plaque there just right!" She doesn't save the plaque scrapings in a separate file because she's attached to them. She just trashes it, all of it, and focuses on my teeth.

My dental hygienist does one thing at a time. She doesn't stop to polish while she's scraping. She doesn't get all excited about someone else's teeth as an avoidance mechanism. She doesn't stop in the middle to blog about my teeth or to reward herself for being half done with a quick game of Minesweeper. She scrapes and scrapes and when she's finally done, she checks again before moving in with the spinning polishing shrieking thing. And she waits until that's done to floss.

My dental hygienist didn't ignore the whatever it was she found on that one tooth even after she was all done. She didn't say, "Aargh! I already fixed that once!" or "It'll be fine; let's wait and see if my agent notices." She went back in with the scraper thingy, even though it meant polishing and rinsing and flossing all over again.

At the end of it all, my dental hygienist rinses my teeth and sucks out any remaining drool with that mouth vacuum that makes you feel like it might turn your head inside out. I don't know what part of the revising metaphor that is -- except that revising makes me feel like turning my head inside out.

I will say this: my dental hygienist did all of the above without a drop of coffee or a single Snickers bar.

I guess nobody's perfect.

14 comments:

Colorado Writer said...

Has anyone ever told you how brilliant you are???

I love going to the dentist. Love it.

Tabitha said...

I love how you can take something in everyday life and turn it into a metaphor for writing. It puts a smile on my face. :)

C.R. Evers said...

LOL! That is too perfect! I love it!

But clearly, she was NOT meant to be a writer. ;0P She just doesn't have what it takes.

Diane T said...

Thanks for the metaphor. Next time I don't feel like revising, I'll tell myself, "Well, you could be getting your teeth scraped at the dentist!"

Then I'll get my caffeine and Snickers and get right back to work.

J. Thorp said...

Brilliant!

J. Thorp said...

(Although I suspect, as in writing, the process of removing the plaque is nowhere near as much fun as the process of creating it in the first place!)

Jacqui said...

Colorado Writer, I love the dentist too.

Tabitha, I'm glad it made you smile.

Christy, I know! Who functions without one of the major food groups?

Diane, I would rather get my teeth scraped sometimes...

Thorp, I totally agree, though some people love revising, which I can't understand.

Sharon Blankenship said...

My hygienist works for a periodontist and her middle name is Brutality. I have christened her Brunhilde.
I do anything I can to avoid her deadly tools. So I brush, floss, rinse, and then do it again.
Come to think of it, that is sort of like writing. Rather than get the torture treatment for an hour, I work really hard to prevent it. Slaving over a computer or 8 X 14 legal pad, polishing, scraping, and rinsing with a restoring critique group.
Sharon B.
You are brilliant, you know.

cindy said...

haha jacqui! i love revising! i wish i had a draft to revise right about now. ;*) GOOD LUCK!

ecm_arts said...

I, too, have been to the dentist recently. Ruthless, I tell you. It's a dirty job and someone's gotta do it! ;-)

Jacqui said...

Thanks, Sharon. I like your extension of my metaphor. I was trying to think how to work the critique group in.

Cindy, you are a sick, sick woman. :)

ecm_arts, you're right. I used to have a not-ruthless dental hygienist. Totally unsatisfying.

sruble said...

I don't like going to the dentist, but I love your analogy!

BrioII said...

Take a look at www.gripit.biz to see a clever dental floss holder with animation your kids will enjoy.

Jacqui said...

Brioii, sadly I fear my children would love a dental floss holder... to eat, to stab each other with, to feed to the cat...