Writers or bloggers who write about writing often express the difficulties of practicing the craft in romantic terms of justification. Maybe not the physical pain of carpel-tunnel syndrome, butt-rot, or screen-induced headache, but certainly the mental frustrations, the endless angst of word choice, unruly character quirks or plot twists.
And to end this state of anguish, these literary pundits suggest self-help books (disguised as instruction books), literary conferences, newsletter screeds, low-res MFA programs, or some esoteric meditation strategy. Anything for day-job relief. Trouble is, this advice implies a degree of inadequacy in the recipient. For many wannabe writers this goading is necessary, and I have no quarrel with them as most of us started somewhere. Nor do I disparage critique groups which occur among friends who respect each other and are literary equals.
Those needing validation often measure their work by some scale of success. And such measure is too often dollars and cents despite the admonition that few folks make a living-wage from their writing. Funny how some words are cheap while some have great influence.
Not so much is written about the satisfaction of writing (word and deed); the rewards of completing a poem, novel essay, or a history. While I agree with the notion that revision is always a possibility, the writer wants ‘closure,’ wants the work in print (or posted on line) which, at least for the moment, seems to be a milestone planted firmly in the ground. Of course, the book might be banned and 451-Fahrenheit-ed and there are authors who would be delighted to have their book so incendiary. In a milder vein, nothing being permanent, a second edition may correct goofs or embody revisions and carry the book another mile illustrating that the journey is never complete. A positive review and modest sales are the closet the author may come to fame, but usually just knowing that the work is done, printed and out in the world (yes, like birthing a child) is enough to relax on his/her laurels.
After a year and a half of researching and writing, the book I have been working on has been published under the auspices of the local historical society. A book signing event has taken place and several defective books replaced by the printer. It will not be a profitable seller, never be considered for a literary award, may never have a second printing, but I enjoyed writing it and am happy with the end-product. The history genre using primary materials was new to my writing credentials and thus a learning experience. What more can we ask of our writing?
Though there were frustrations, rabbit holes, dead ends, and difficult judgement calls, I relished the day-to-day discoveries, the connections made between one fact and another, the organization necessary to present the ‘story’ in a coherent and readable manner. “Better done than perfect” is a craftsperson’s adage, and indeed I dread, even now, some owl-eyed reader pointing out some error (“That’s not my Aunt Valda!”) or offensive nuance or loud omission.
All-in-all, we small-audience writers should be comfortable with our productions, literary fame be damned! We should revel in the process, the revisions, the two words, thought of post-printing, that would have made the sentence, the paragraph or the whole poem come alive. Though regret is a sort of obligation, we should not feel guilt. We should instead hang the checkered flag, basketball net, the participation certificate on the wall next to our desk. Joy should be the essence behind our words.
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