Despite family issues, taking time off work to take care of said family issues, and a body that doesn’t seem to be responding to caffeine as it should be, I have managed to get some writing done. Well, not writing so much as editing. Okay, not editing so much as rewriting. Fine, not rewriting so much as endlessly obsessing over whether I believe a specific project is DONE.
I’m not a perfectionist, not by any stretch of the imagination. I’ll let my beard get scraggly. I leave my bed unmade for days at a time. I’ll rinse out a cup and consider it clean. It’s just the way I am. Now, don’t misunderstand – I’m not slovenly, for Christ’s sake. But some things, to me, don’t need that much attention. At least in my opinion.
Except for my writing.
I read an interview with Donna Tartt (author of my favorite novel “The Secret History” and current Pulitzer Prize winning work of brilliance “The Goldfinch”) a while back where she said she has picked up copies of her books in the bookstore and seethed over some of the passages, wishing she could go in with a red pen and start changing things. She’s a smart gal, that Donna. She has pled my case, basically.
I am always, to a fault, unsatisfied with my work. Now, mind you, I know I’m not a great writer. I’m a good writer, just not great. I’m okay with this. But I feel that a story should be its best, no matter what my skill level. Is that so wrong???
Well, I’m here to tell you it is.
I have been working on a short story tentatively (see that, right there? Tentatively? Meaning I’m still on the fence about even that detail!) titled “Dusty Stretch of Road.” I wrote it several years – yes, years – ago. It was awful. I even submitted it under another title to an online publication and they accepted it. I truly believe, to this day, that online publication just needed voids to fill and my story – despite its awfulness – filled that void.
So I forgot about it. Then, one day about a year ago, I retrieved it. I started playing with it again. Retooling it, if you will. I rewrote it, expanded it. More character development. More background information. More meaning. I’d put it away for several weeks and get back to it. A fresh perspective. And again with the retooling.
I’ve retooled this motherfucker more often than a bad ABC comedy pilot.
So, my question to you is this: when do you know when a project is DONE? When do you look at it and say, “This is submittable”? Or, on the opposite end, can you look at a project and think, “This is hopeless!” and toss it in the trash? I’m curious on your perspective, Writers.
Because, frankly, I think I’ve gone over my story so many times that I’m beginning to believe it really happened.