I recall the frustration I felt when, after having worked on my first novel for over two years, I was still able to sit with my printed pages and create a mess of red-line edits for myself.
No, this word is better.
This sentence is drivel.
Move this graph over there. Nope, nope—there.
She would never say that, ug.
WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?
Was I beyond capricious? Hard-core stalling? Lacking in the ability to know when done was done enough?
Then, a miracle: a day when I read through my printed pages and left far fewer notes for myself. Some scenes had only a couple of red-pencil markings. Some none at all. That day turned into a string of days, and the pile of pages for which there were few if any notes grew.
Had I become less picky? More eager to move on? A far better writer?
Nope. Nope. And (mostly) nope.
Imagine two people out on a boat on a lake at sunset. Later, you’ll ask them: What did you see? And you’ll receive different reports, be informed about different details.
There was a barking dog. A face-planting skier. A huge spider somewhere in the boat.
Huh. I forgot my glasses and saw only muted colors in the sky…
These different perspectives make easy sense to us, as those two people climbed into that boat with different eyes, minds, dispositions, attention spans, angles, meals in their stomachs, aches and pains in their bones, visual acuity, and so on. But here’s what you may not realize: You, too, are like those two people on the boat. Yep, both of them. Or maybe there are thousands of them.
On any given day, you are seeing your work from a singular angle—a day (hour, minute) that will never be again, with a you that will never be quite the same again. This is your perspective on day 16,885 of a life, perhaps, or day 488 of your wip, or day 1,309 of a marriage, or day 3 of really crap sleep (which is barely distinguishable from hour 3 of a diet). These versions of yourself will continue to change, and hopefully to evolve, just as your story will change and evolve.
And it’s all good.
Because unless you’re a truly miraculous writer, your best ideas will not come when you’re staring at the blinking cursor of Draft One. In fact, they will not come on any single day. Rather, a symphonic effort via your many shades of self will be required to evolve word craft, three-dimensional characters, and out-of-the-box ideas.
You will change.
Your voice may shift.
Your tolerance for sub-par writing may become less tolerant.
You may have epiphanies over lunch, at dawn, or as you’re about to fall asleep. They may come while you’re in the shower or out walking the dog. On the other side of it, yesterday’s epiphanies may look sophomoric and wind up alongside a hundred other possibilities in your computer’s trash bin.
But, if you continue through all of your shades-of-self work—the crossing off and rewriting and doubt and angst—you’ll find it: [Read more…]