Now I’m Down in ItFebruary 25, 2015
Lest you think that this blog is only about self-congratulatory armchair artistic heroism, I am here today to tell you that few things in the universe will make you question your sanity quite like editing your own book.
I mentioned last post about looking back at what felt like a lovely mostly-finished work and finding out that it’s actually a slapdash heap. There are the small victories — the parts that just needed a little straightening or another coat of paint. These are the reassurances that keep you going when you open another door and find out the room is collapsing. And when that’s the case, you usually can’t move one part without moving all the parts around it, possibly without dismantling and rebuilding the whole house…
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a hell of a thing that I get to spend my day doing this instead of, say, actually fixing a real house outside in the hellbound cold right now. But if you wonder how writing or painting or composing or anything like that can be “hard,” editing is a big part of what makes it hard. Just like anything else, none of this goes perfectly on the first try. Even when you hit that brilliant stroke of inspiration and awesome stuff just pours out of you, when it’s done you look back and usually see that the awesome stuff is mired in junk, or it’s beautiful and makes perfect sense to you but not to anything else in existence. The “work” part is turning the surrounding junk into something equally awesome, or figuring out that it can’t be made awesome and carting it away to the trash (a.k.a. “murdering your darlings”), or trying to figure out what makes something so awesome that absolutely has to be saved, or figuring out what you have to give up at the awesomeness’s expense, or maybe having to murder that darling too because, no matter how awesome it might be, it just isn’t meant for this book or this anything…
Of course, you almost never think “yup, this is some shit right here” when you first make anything. Sometimes you do know, because you know you’re grinding it out to get to something else, and you just cover your eyes and hope you can deal with it later. In any case, “later” comes around and you have to face what you’ve done. I’ve said before that all creative art is self-indulgence on some level, but it’s also an act of faith. You are trusting yourself to eventually make your creation into everything you think it can and should be. You’re trusting both your ability to do it, and your resolution to finish it. When either of these things falter — and they will, sometimes, because you’re only human — you can’t blame the boss, the industry, the market, the weather, the government, the customers, or the manufacturer. You are alone with your own failure. (But, on the other side of the coin, when you do finish something and/or ace it? That is ALL YOU, BABY, and no one can take it from you. HELL YEAH!)
And, as I mentioned learning recently, all of the above takes a lot longer than you ever originally planned. Or, at least, it takes me a lot longer. Hopefully I’ll speed up with practice. Meanwhile: laundry heaps up downstairs; ingredients for dinners I was really going to make wilt in the fridge; friends who wanted to play games online or hang out IRL get neglected; and while a bad day at the keyboard is still a pretty good day, it’s not a day that pays money until I actually publish something and it sells.
But, as is usually the case, the only way out is through. And I got called off this morning from a day gig at the old job. It’s a blessing (chronologically) and a curse (financially), but the only way to fix that is to make money writing books, and that’s not going to happen until I finish a damn book and publish it. Time to get down in that mud!*
* Like the super adorable baby elephant in the picture, right?! Sure, I could have gone for the “house” metaphor when I went stock photo shopping, but who doesn’t love baby elephants?