Monday, October 16, 2006

I'm That Good

I'm submitting a short story to a couple of science fiction magazines when I realize that I'm not quite ready. Or rather, the pieces aren't quite ready. I have this illusion that's it's done because I've reached "the end," because I've spellchecked and formatted, becasue I've written the cover letter. But then, glancing it over, I realize there's an adjective that's quite right, and I have question about "dove"vs. "dived." "Diven?" No definitely not 'diven.' But it just proves to me that I'm not that good.

When I say that, it's because I have this illusion that I'm going to write a story once. Just as you'll read it in a magazine is just going to be how I wrote it. Boom, perfect. From my fingertips to the pages right in front of your eyes. I'm that good. But I'm not. Few writers are. And the ones who are that good are only so occassionally. I remember reading about James Clavell's "The Children's Story," about which he said he barely wrote it more than once. Somehow the story was dicatated to him from the ether. This isn't an uncommon experience among artists, but rarely does it happen for more than a single work, and sometimes for just part of it. So why do we think that we're that good?

When we read today, which we do a lot, the text is finished. We read an article, a book, or even a soup label, and we don't see the process it's gone through to be finished. It's the same for films. You see the finished product, and immediately it's easier to point out the faults than see the huge amount of effort that's gone into getting the film to the screen.

I get anxious to see my work in print, but it doesn't serve that purpose to send it off before it's ready. In fact, it's counterproductive. Writing takes time. Submitting takes time too. Not only does the story or article have to be ready, but the materials to present it have to be polished too. That means a cover letter that shines, packaging that's unflawed, labels that are perfect. If they don't like the story, that's an opinion, but if it's mechanics or sloppy presentation, it's m own fault. If the story could have been better, but I simply wasn't willing to wait, well that's sloppy work too. So I may not be that good the first time out, but I will be. And when I finally am, then I'll submit the work, confident that it's as good as I can make it.

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