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Is It Perfect?

100% PerfectI once read that the occupational disease of writers is depression. It’s not difficult to know why. Shall I suggest some reasons?

  1. The sheer all-but-impossibility of writing a perfect piece of work.
  2. The isolation.
  3. Low (if any) income. (The trend these days is ever lower,)
  4. Negative response to one’s work, which these days includes dismissive criticism on the anonymous internet.
  5. The decline of reading in our modern world.
  6. The burden of making one’s work known in the world.
  7. The ever-narrowing world of publishing.

That’s a start. Feel free to suggest more.

It’s the first I’d like to discuss.

When I speak to classes of young writers one of the bits of advice I offer is, “If you write something once, and you think it’s good, you are in trouble. If you write something, and you think it’s not very good, that’s great. You know you need to work on it.”

I remember an editor once telling me, “I really dislike working with smug writers.” When I asked him what he meant he said, “Good writers know there is a long process in producing something good. Inexperienced writers assume what they have written is done.”

If I had the patience, or for that matter, income, I would take any work I’ve written and worked on and put it aside for six months (maybe a year) and then come back to it. It’s not that the work will have changed, but my objectivity, my ability to see my work with clearer perception.

When I work on a book I usually do so with my desktop computer. Now and I again I switch the text over to a laptop. It always startles me that by so doing I see things that I missed when only working in my routine fashion.

Crucially, by the same token, I have a couple of friends—good readers—who are willing to read a new book. What they say is always valuable, and usable.

One of the myths of art is that it’s created by one person. Not true. Ever. All art is collaborative.

Like life itself.

4 thoughts on “Is It Perfect?”

  1. Your wisdom, experience and insight, plus your body of work always teaches and inspires me. Thank you. Oh that #s 3 – 7 could change easily. But the world needs its writers. And more readers. The real kind. Those that cannot be dissuaded from books. Of all kinds.

  2. I have not thought of that before- I agree on the insight that all art is collaborative. We tend to not realize that we need the influence of the world around us whether direct or indirect, subtle or explicit, to shape us as humans and thus, the way we express our perceptions, our emotions, our thoughts. Our interactions with others, nature, & daily events greatly impact us a nd we often do not notice it. Writing can make that salient to the writer as well as to the reader. Our students can come to see how they do matter in the world and how other aspects of their lives make a difference regardless of how big or small.


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