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Perfectionism and the art of zen

It won't be a surprise to know that I'm not loving the rewriting process that that I've been doing for ... well, it feels like forever but is only about 7 months.

I find writing difficult. In fact, I find writing as difficult and horrendous as giving birth to a bowling ball covered with spikes - it rips me up, tears me apart, takes hours and hours and when it's over, I'm stuck with a fugly bowling ball covered with spikes that then need to be filed down.

However, I also need to write, which is why I keep on doing it and very ocassionally, I re-read something that I've written and realise that it doesn't completely suck and that I've come close to getting across what I wanted to get across. I'm currently having one of those rate moments where I think my scene is coming together in the way that I wanted and it's not only a massive relief but it also makes me feel excited about what I'm doing - it renews my interest, gives my stamina a boost and will no doubt help me to get through the next hellish trough of writing.

One of the oft-quoted pieces of advice out there for new writers is that writing a novel is a marathon and not a sprint. There are no doubt plenty of other writers out there who go through what I'm going through, albeit with better metaphors.

Re-writing is past of the process of getting a draft together. I've never met anyone who didn't have to do some kind of rewriting at some stage on their way to publication (and I say that as someone who's current rewriting is necessary to just get it out to publishers). It gives you a chance to rethink your book, to take a look at it honestly and critically and think about what works and what doesn't.

You have to be ruthless.

You have to be self-aware.

You can't be self-indulgent.

I've deleted lines and scenes that I loved - almost as many as scenes and lines that I hated - all because they weren't helping the novel as a whole.

This all brings me to my next point: perfectionism.

One of the pieces of advice that I keep getting from writers and non-writers alike is how you have to learn to turn off your inner editor and forget about trying to make your novel perfect and just concentrate on getting it finished.

It's certainly something to think about and there are plenty of people who are able to do it.

I am not one of them.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking to craft the most exquisite prose on the planet (because that would be a thankless exercise of Greek mythological proportions). I am, however, looking to create the best story and the best writing that I am capable of at this moment in time, and that means pushing myself and looking past easy compromises. This works for me. It won't work for everyone (and nor should it work for everyone - we're all individuals, we all have our own way of working).

The reason I mention it is because I'm so sick of reading on writing sites or hearing from other people that because I'm trying to do my best, I am somehow not writing properly.

There is no properly. There is only the writing method that works for you.

Here endeth the lesson.

Earlier in the week I booked myself a holiday to Disneyworld, which I am really looking forward to. It's partly a birthday treat, partly a Christmas treat and partly an incentive on me to get the book finished and (hopefully) sold by the end of the year. At least, this was the excuse I used to splurge a bit because there was a good deal on flights managed to find some premium economy and business class flights which didn't burst the budget and make my bank manager cry. There's some talk of my meeting up with some mates of mine while I'm out there, which I'm still working through the details for. It would be great if we could, but equally if it doesn't come off I'll still be able to run around the Magic Kingdom chasing Eeyore for hugs.

Oh, don't look at me in that judgmental way. There are plenty of other nutty 30 something, lonely English women who do that too.

The other highlight of my week was visiting a podiatrist on Friday to try and sort out a really rather nasty problem that I have with my foot. I'll spare you the details because it is quite, quite disgusting. Suffice to say that my advice to anyone is that if you see something wrong with your foot, don't leave it and hope it will get better. If over-the-counter treatments don't work, go and see a GP and if the GP is unhelpful, go to see a specialist. You will thank me in the long run.

Anyway, after sitting in the waiting room the podiatrist invited me into his office.

Podiatrist: "Hello, good to see you. Just pop your clothes off and jump up the couch and we'll see what the problem is."

Me: "Say what now?"

Podiatrist: :pats the couch: "If you could strip down to your underwear and hop up here, I'll take a look at where the problem is."

Me: "Erm ... the problem's with my foot. Can I not just take my shoe and sock off?"

Podiatrist: "With your foot?" :checks notes: "Are you not here for a muscular investigation?"

Me: "Not really, no. I'm here with a dodgy foot." :waggles offending bodily part:

Podiatrist: "I don't really deal with feet."

Me: :wondering how I've managed to find the world's only non-foot specialising podiatrist: "You're not a podiatrist, are you?"

Podiatrist: :shakes head: "I'm a skeletal and muscular specialist."

Me: "Then I think there's been some kind of mistake ..."

And lo, there was a mistake. Apparently the appointment centre had got me confused with another patient when they were entering the details onto the system. I can only laugh when I think about that poor other person who thought they were seeing a skeletal and muscular specialist and found someone obsessed with their feet.

Fortunately it all got sorted out, I did see a proper podiatrist and once the lab results come back (I'm really not joking when I say there's something digustingly wrong with my foot) I should be able to start treatment next month.

Right, back to the writing.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 25th, 2010 02:36 pm (UTC)
I find it really difficult to... commit to writing, honestly. I wish I could be one of the people who believe in spurting out everything in rewriting, but I don't. I do edit after a while, briefly, but half the time I anguish over how I (mis)represent my idea, and nothing gets done.

tl;dr: I feel you about finding writing difficult and getting endlessly frustrated with it. I hope you overcome this stage of GRRRRRRR.
Jul. 25th, 2010 04:46 pm (UTC)
Is this your nasty fungal toe thingy?

I am getting a very friendly nurse freeze my verruca of doom every fortnight and it's going well.

We should compare foot ickiness notes sometime...

Good luck with the rewriting. I could never stomach it -- I was far too precious about my stuff, and therefore doomed.
Aug. 1st, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
Is this your nasty fungal toe thingy?

Yeah. I've got infections in 4 toe nails now and the nail lacquer hasn't been working. The podiatrist said my GP should have referred me about a year ago when it first became obvious that it wasn't getting better.

Hey ho. You live and learn.
Aug. 1st, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
Four?? Bloody hell. Sounds awful. Hope it gets better soon!
Aug. 1st, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC)
Oh it's completely hideous. The podiatrist said it's one of the worst cases he's seen, which is why he's offering me a discount on my treatment - he wants to use them for a before and after photoshoot to use in marketing material.

Lamentably, the treatment takes at least a year to take effect.
Jul. 25th, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
Bwahahaha - you should put your potentially pervy podiatrist into a book some time.
Jul. 25th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
I can never make myself stop editing. Even when I realize I've changed something from A to B to C back to A again and so on. Baaah. Thank you for the lesson.

Heee for the amusing not-podiatrist story. =)
Jul. 26th, 2010 08:35 am (UTC)
I'm glad you're actively fighting KYBS into the best shape possible. When are you aiming to pass the final draft back to your agent?
Aug. 1st, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
I'm having lunch with my agent later this month to discuss it, but realistically it'll be autumn.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline Hooton

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