Monday, November 29, 2010

let it be.

I don't know if anyone noticed - but I've been a flaky blogger lately. I know I left you guys hanging with the last post about the sunny day and the cats and Ella Fitzgerald and Caribbean ceramics and various other heart warming news. But please rest assured that I have not been idle in my absence--in fact, I have been busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger. By next Thursday, I will be finished with the fall 2010 semester, which is great and all, but it presents a dilemma in the heaps of presentations, take-home exams, and analytical essays that must also be completed by next Thursday in order for the first statement to be true.

I really shouldn't be here right now. I shouldn't be writing a blog. No, I should be memorizing characters from the bible for my literature class or practicing for my BFA thesis reading tomorrow night. But something happened today and I need to vent to you, bloggers, for the sake of my sanity; so the to-do list can wait for 10 minutes.

Something horrible happened today. Okay, that might be too dramatic of a statement, but I can assure you that it was bad.

First, I'd like to remind you of the last conversation we had:
 I got to read my writing today. But it was a totally different experience than I have ever had. I got to see what my words look like in a book. Our senior class is publishing an anthology called “The Ground Stammers Back” and I have submitted one of my favorite stories—a dark humor about a funeral in West Virginia. I have been working on that piece since late January of ’09 and it’s probably my most revised jewel. I’ve read her on Microsoft Word Documents probably a billion times before while she was being created and sculpted, but seeing her professionally inked onto the page of a real book with page numbers and CAPITAL LETTERS STARTING THE FIRST SENTENCE, gave me the most thrilling sense of bona fide writer identity I have had yet. It made me feel like the real deal. And I must say—she looked good! I only got to hold the book for a moment though, and I’m sure that once I receive a copy I will toil over every detail until I find something to be dissatisfied about. And that’s natural; we are our own worst critics. But that quick glance I got today was love at first site, pure and simple.

Great! Right? Well, not anymore. The love was lust. I'm no longer in love with my work; which is something I predicted would happen, anyway. But it happened pretty quickly.

I only got to hold the book for a moment though, and I’m sure that once I receive a copy I will toil over every detail until I find something to be dissatisfied about.

My optimism about the book was leached this afternoon when I found two errors in my sections of the anthology within an hour.

I need to stop for a minute and explain something so that my reaction will make more sense to you: I am a perfectionist when it comes to writing. When creating a new piece with new words and new sentences, the words clumsily pour out in scattered pieces. It's really effortless. But then it's time to edit. That's the grueling part. That's when I obsess over it. I don't know if anyone reads my blog enough to notice, but I continually edit old blog posts in my spare time. I do the same thing with my fiction, my poetry, e-mails I send to important people, comments I make on facebook walls. I comb the words for grammar errors constantly and when I do find errors, it only feeds my paranoia of more unacknowledged problems. I might not be great at many things in life--but writing is something I'm gifted in. It's something I've always loved to do. Because writing is such a heavy art form to me, I have this innate nature of never finishing a piece. Once I'm done heaving out the words, I edit and edit and edit and edit. I never really stop. If I was a parent and literature (or whatever it is I produce) was my child, I would be that annoying pushy parent always trying to make my kid cooler, or smarter, or more successful, instead of just letting them well, be.

So when I discovered that my precious jewel of a piece, 'Pearly Gates', was improperly transcribed as 'Pertly Gates', in the table of contents, I was mildly upset. (Is PERTLY even a word?) Thus, problem number one. But it seemed to simply be a typo; the title on the actual story page read correctly. Oh well, I thought. Editors are humans, too.

The second one was worse, though. The book was in my possession for about an hour until a male-friend of mine decided to page through and read my story. He laughed after reading the first line.

"What's funny?" I was just thinking he read really fast and had reached one of the first funny moments of my dark-humor short story already.

"Chevy Bronco." He was referring to the first line.

"...Yeah? Do you like that line? Chevy Broncos?" I was so blind to the whole problem.

"Monica, Chevy doesn't make Broncos; Ford does." Pow! It felt like a punch to the stomach!

I have been bleeding and sweating and grueling over this piece for two years. I have workshopped this piece 3 times, edited it about 6 billion times, and passed it through, probably, 200 hands. And NO ONE has caught the Chevy Bronco line. No one. No one has mentioned - "Hey, I don't think that's a real car!" at all. Until the moment it was too late.

I think I'll always be embarrassed about this goof, which is silly. This is a minor problem in the broad scale of a writing career and I'm sure that most people won't even pay attention to it. But then I think about readers like my friend this afternoon - who unintentionally broke his attention in the first line simply because of my failure to research car companies.

I'm learning a lot right now, because I have to. But the lesson I am learning right now isn't on my 'to-do' list. I am learning to not obsess over my work. And while I know I'll always cringe at the line "Chevy Bronco" and have horrible flashbacks of the first moment I was officially wrong (in a printed book!), I need to learn to love my words like imperfect children. Sure, there's always room for improvement; but I need to learn when to step back and let it be...

And I'm doing it right now. As always, thank you readers.


  1. Ha ha! That's funny Monica! :) No worries though. If one out of 201 people notice the error, it's ok. I had an English professor who used to say that she never "finished" writing anything. She was just forced to abandon it at the deadline. You're not alone in your obsessive editing, and I think it will make you a better writer in the long run. Can't wait to read your first "real" book. :D


  2. Nowt wrong with flaky....humanity is resolutely flaky babe.

    Good luck with the sweating and bleeding et al...

    ...avoid car's safer that way...;-)