Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped. Lillian Hellman, Playwright.
Several days ago, I posted a short piece of fiction.
I wrote the story in June. I came back to it a few weeks ago, and began to rewrite it. I wanted to make it tighter, sharper. In my head, I knew what sort of mood I wanted to convey, the feelings I wanted to evoke in the reader. After the rewrites, I thought I had captured all of that, and so I posted the story.
As Miss Hellman said, nothing you write ever comes out as you first hoped… not if you hope to be good.
I took another look at the story yesterday. I think it’s a fairly good first effort, but there are things I might do differently. There are some passages that might have been worded more clearly, more cleanly. Perhaps some surgery to excise superfluous emotion. I’m not sure. I just know it did not come out as I first hoped.
It came close. But something is still missing.
I am not satisfied.
The hardest thing for a writer, I think, is satisfaction with the final product. At what point do you know it’s time to walk away?
Are you your biggest critic? I’d have to say that I am. In my heart (and my head!), I know the emotions I want to evoke in a reader. The trick is in getting those emotions out of my head and onto paper. It is seldom easy. Sometimes it’s so damned hard that a litany of negativity begins to assert itself, making the job even more difficult: who are you kidding? you’ll never be a writer; you don’t have it in you; you can’t even figure out how to convey this one simple feeling to a reader.
And that is when I step away from the keyboard, feeling bruised and battered from the words of the Little Doubter who has a small furnished flat inside my head.
Generally, a good night’s sleep helps me put things in perspective. More often than not, the advice of a respected, trusted friend will do the trick (Lennon and McCartney were right: we do get by with a little help from our friends). With adequate rest and a friend to lean on, my batteries are recharged and I go at it again. More determined.
It’s encouraging to read Hellman’s words. It gives me comfort when she admits that if you want to be a good writer, you must realize that what you write will never come out as you first hoped. A good writer, I think, is never completely satisfied. What we “hope” to show you, make you feel, make you experience, will never be exactly what we envisioned, what we originally had in our head. But we try to come as close as possible. Oh, yes, we do try.
My writing journey has just begun. For where I am at this point in time, I came reasonably close to sharing with readers what was in my head when I wrote this story. My hope was to illustrate how the past sometimes bleeds into the present. I did not completely realize this hope – at least not to my satisfaction.
Not this time.
I stay hungry for full realization, determined to get just a little bit closer with each story… or with each sentence, each paragraph. I visualize the process of realization somewhat like a sculptor with block of stone before him: he continues to painstakingly chip away at it until, finally, he has realized in stone the image that was in his head.
I’m not disheartened. I’ll keep trying to play with words in the hope that next time I’ll get a little closer to realizing my vision. It’s been said that all artists start out as amateurs. We learn as we go.
Next time, I’m going to try to ignore the Little Doubter inside who is waiting to knock me down a peg or two. In fact, I may give him notice that his lease is up. I can’t afford him any longer. I’m not going to waste my time listening to him.
I’d rather listen to Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”