I thought it would be easy. I write every day. Putting words and stories together in a book shouldn’t be that hard. I guess that’s why some folks go to college. Me, I got stuck living life rather than studying it. I wouldn’t trade a thing. Anyway, I can’t, can I? But getting the book together with my lack of knowledge is proving quite a challenge. Writing is only part of it. Then there is editing, editing, editing. And you know, I thought it sounded great the first time. Then you read it over, and it sounds terrible and you’re completely filled with that big black cloud that I’m great at dragging along with me call SELF DOUBT. Confidence is not my forte. And the process of critiquing my writing has been a good blow to what little confidence I had.
I’d like to look at this process as learning experience. So what have I learned so far? How much work my writing needs in order to be as good as I want it to be. And how much time things take when some of us want results yesterday. I wish I could say something like you can’t rush the aging of a fine wine, but I’m not going there.
Here’s how it worked. This time last year I was finishing the original manuscript. Later in the spring I sent it out to several literary agents. One was very encouraging, positive of my writing, but wanted me to refine the manuscript. After my family’s plans and thus a big part of my life fell apart later in the spring, I sunk and wasn’t able to see the trees for the forest, or something like that. I couldn’t get myself to edit my own work well. This winter I found an editor I decided to work with. A remarkable man with more knowledge and experience in writing and publishing than I will ever dream to amass. And for me, the most interesting and exciting part of working with him is that he speaks and writes with more grace and courtesy than I have read/heard in too long. A reminder of the choices we have in communication. Do we want to be curt and slang and casual? Or positive, inspiring, and polite? His words are always the latter. Always. And that makes hearing from him always something one looks forward to. Words like little blessings. That alone is an invaluable lesson.
He’s been helping me re-see the old work, and what I’m seeing is, it needs a lot more work than I was hoping for. I find myself re-writing about three quarters of what I already wrote. Like starting a new, but with the old stuff. Not quite as fun and exciting. Really, quite a challenge and a chore. But I am learning from it. I’m learning how much I do not know. And how much work my writing needs.
It’s growing. I’m growing. That’s a good thing. I should be done with this stage in the next month. And then… back to the editor in New York, and we’ll see what he says. Move on from there.
I’d like it to be done now. I’ve been ready to move on to the next book for some time now. Continuing to work this first one is like reliving the past, Groundhog Day, over and over and over again. It’s not a past I want to relive. No past is. I’d rather live today and look forward to tomorrow.
But ultimately what I want is good work. And I guess like that fine wine, it takes time. At least I don’t have to sit and watch the bottle age. I can be in the vat, mixing and stirring and making it happen. I’ve never been one to sit around and watch my life ripen. I don’t think it really ripens that way anyway, now does it?
I’m going to dive in. Sometimes it’s pretty messy. But look at it this way. At least it always gives me something to write about.