word craft


Is It Perfect?

100% PerfectI once read that the occu­pa­tion­al dis­ease of writ­ers is depres­sion. It’s not dif­fi­cult to know why. Shall I sug­gest some reasons?

  1. The sheer all-but-impos­si­bil­i­ty of writ­ing a per­fect piece of work.
  2. The iso­la­tion.
  3. Low (if any) income. (The trend these days is ever lower,)
  4. Neg­a­tive response to one’s work, which these days includes dis­mis­sive crit­i­cism on the anony­mous internet.
  5. The decline of read­ing in our mod­ern world.
  6. The bur­den of mak­ing one’s work known in the world.
  7. The ever-nar­row­ing world of publishing.

That’s a start. Feel free to sug­gest more.

It’s the first I’d like to discuss.

When I speak to class­es of young writ­ers one of the bits of advice I offer is, “If you write some­thing once, and you think it’s good, you are in trou­ble. If you write some­thing, and you think it’s not very good, that’s great. You know you need to work on it.”

I remem­ber an edi­tor once telling me, “I real­ly dis­like work­ing with smug writ­ers.” When I asked him what he meant he said, “Good writ­ers know there is a long process in pro­duc­ing some­thing good. Inex­pe­ri­enced writ­ers assume what they have writ­ten is done.”

If I had the patience, or for that mat­ter, income, I would take any work I’ve writ­ten and worked on and put it aside for six months (maybe a year) and then come back to it. It’s not that the work will have changed, but my objec­tiv­i­ty, my abil­i­ty to see my work with clear­er perception.

When I work on a book I usu­al­ly do so with my desk­top com­put­er. Now and I again I switch the text over to a lap­top. It always star­tles me that by so doing I see things that I missed when only work­ing in my rou­tine fashion.

Cru­cial­ly, by the same token, I have a cou­ple of friends—good readers—who are will­ing to read a new book. What they say is always valu­able, and usable.

One of the myths of art is that it’s cre­at­ed by one per­son. Not true. Ever. All art is collaborative.

Like life itself.

4 thoughts on “Is It Perfect?”

  1. Your wis­dom, expe­ri­ence and insight, plus your body of work always teach­es and inspires me. Thank you. Oh that #s 3 — 7 could change eas­i­ly. But the world needs its writ­ers. And more read­ers. The real kind. Those that can­not be dis­suad­ed from books. Of all kinds.

  2. I have not thought of that before- I agree on the insight that all art is col­lab­o­ra­tive. We tend to not real­ize that we need the influ­ence of the world around us whether direct or indi­rect, sub­tle or explic­it, to shape us as humans and thus, the way we express our per­cep­tions, our emo­tions, our thoughts. Our inter­ac­tions with oth­ers, nature, & dai­ly events great­ly impact us a nd we often do not notice it. Writ­ing can make that salient to the writer as well as to the read­er. Our stu­dents can come to see how they do mat­ter in the world and how oth­er aspects of their lives make a dif­fer­ence regard­less of how big or small.


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