Today I reviewed the introduction and chapter one of my book, which I wrote several years ago.
I was totally appalled with certain sections that I used to think were rock-solid.
I wondered things such as, “What on EARTH was I thinking?”, “Why-oh-why didn’t I see those errors? I have an English degree, dammit!”, and “Whhaaaaaaat?”
Writing is so strange. If I write a few paragraphs and wait just one day, I always find ways to improve them. Always. At the very least I find egregious, embarrassing typos and/or syntax bugaboos. More often than not I find entire sections that need to be changed or cut.
It’s perplexing, and it raises my blood pressure, but I also find this phenomenon fascinating.
When is a piece of writing done? The pattern that I describe shows that writing is never truly complete, and that it can always be smoother, wittier, more profound, and even 100% grammatically correct. The same concept could be applied to any creative pursuit, of course.
I guess it’s about acceptance of the imperfect, and about setting limits with one’s examination (navel gazing?) of one’s writing. That sounds simple enough, right?
Oooooh, it’s not simple! Not for this silly procrastinating perfectionist!
I’ve also been daydreaming about other aspects of writing, i.e. what inspires us to write, and “the flow” of creativity that descends upon us when we least expect it.
The other day I listened to an interview with Neil Finn, who is one of my favorite singer/songwriters of Crowded House. Neil was being interviewed about Crowded House’s album “Time On Earth”. That album holds special meaning for me because some of its songs are about the suicide of Neil’s best friend, a gifted musician named Paul Hester, Crowded House’s drummer. I met Paul in New Zealand when I flew there to basically stalk Crowded House, and he was charming, kind and funny with me, since I was a nervous wreck. He reportedly suffered with bipolar disorder. I write more about Paul and Neil here:
Neil’s interview closed with his observations of the songwriting process. He mused,
“Tapping into the divine inspiration – I have no idea and I never will, I don’t think…it always seems like it’s harder every time, but it probably isn’t. It’s probably the same. The contradiction being in the whole process is that when it happens it’s effortless, and getting to the point of where it’s effortless is an internal struggle, so I don’t know…I don’t understand it.”
As Neil discussed his songwriting I realized that his thoughts about “divine inspiration” applies to writing a book as well as a song. My ears pricked up when he mentioned “internal struggle”. I’m not feeling like anything is effortless this morning, nor do I feel graced with divine inspiration, although there’s plenty of internal struggle going on! (Note to Wendy K. Williamson, bestselling author of I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar and Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival: Tips for Living with Bipolar, if you’re reading this, I promise not to whine too much in future posts. Well, maybe.)
Recently the writer Jeff Smith of Higher Trust Marketing shared a Ernest Hemingway quote with me that gave me pause:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
I’m no Hemingway, and I never will be (or aim to be) for that matter! What I do want is for my writing to be consistently good, insightful, and ultimately helpful to others. Do I really need to “bleed” in order to do that?
I hope not.
I’ve suffered enough, like all of you reading this. No bleeding, please.
As some you know, my goal is to finish the draft by my birthday! At this point the only birthday present I want for the rest of my birthdays is to finish the damn draft! 😉 I’ll keep you posted.
Have a GOOD weekend, dear readers!!!