A student asked me if a writer has the luxury to say, “I’m done? It always seems that something needs fixing.”
I responded that, yes, there is a time when a writer must say, “I’m all done.” And a lot depends on what you’re referring to when you see something that needs fixing. If there are glaring things you know are wrong, then you haven’t finished, but need to continue rewriting. I know one of my weaknesses is describing the setting. So I study how others do it, get brochures that describe the places I’m writing about and then use my own words to describe the setting and I’ve received compliments about my settings.
I could tell myself I should travel to those places and experience the setting myself and not finish the book until I do. That would be wrong. I could say I’m not done because I haven’t experienced it first-hand, but that’s self-defeating. We can only use the amount of skill we have, and the research we’ve done. We grow as writers, just as we grow and learn (or should) in every area of our lives and even on our deathbeds we can say, “I’m not done improving.”
We need to have confidence in what we know and what we can do at a particular time. I look back at my first book and can’t read it now because I see glaring errors, or see how the guidelines of writing have changed. Part of that is because I didn’t know enough about life or the craft of writing. So, we’re never done.
That’s sort of how it is with raising children. We do our best. But it’s after our children are grown and gone that we look back and say, “I could have done it better,” but I had to learn as I went along. That’s how it is with writing. We can only give out as much as we have and can probably say it’s not as good as someone else. But we shouldn’t be competing with someone else. Just do the best we can at the given time.
If we always say, I need more education, more experience, more maturity, etc. then we’ll never finish anything. Being objective enough to realize something isn’t perfect is fine. But, as I said in the beginning of this, if you know of glaring craft, character, plot errors then of course you should fix them. Just a general feeling of not being perfect is simply common to creative people. In writing, we’re showing our “insides” to the world and we want it to look good. But, we’re human beings with flaws and limitations, therefore our work may exhibit that. But as long as we’re trying to improve we are accomplishing, even if an editor might “return” the material we submit.
In most areas of our lives, there is a time to fix, or try to fix, and a time to let go.
See, I might have done better simply to write, “There’s a time to fix and there’s a time to let go.”
Yvonne’s latest novel, Hearts that Survive – A Novel of the Titanic, is up for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released March 1, in time for the anniversary of the ship’s sinking April 2012. Here’s a picture of her on the Grand Staircase at the Titanic Display Museum in Pigeon Forge, TN.