With a Snip, Snip Here…

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.perfectionist

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.



8 thoughts on “With a Snip, Snip Here…

Add yours

  1. I think this is something we all struggle with…the story through the trees scenario, as I like to call it. My suggestion, have someone who’s opinion you trust, in the writing community, read it. Not a family member or non-writer friend. A little outside perspective is always helpful, at least I’ve found it to be. Good luck!

  2. Hi Sean, Another awesome post! (I’ve become addicted to your blog, and I thank you for that :-)). To answer (or attempt to answer) your question, I do agree with Rachel.

    Also, my two cents, and take it from someone who has been there…I’ve edited it enough times to make me dizzy and queasy only thinking about it. That’s when it’s time to take a step back from the story. There’s never gonna truly be perfect, because you’ll always find something, as insignificant as it may be, to tweak or change, ever so slightly. As I said before, I think there’s a reason we have deadlines. They force us to try and do our best within a well-defined time-frame., and then we just have to let it go and submit.

    Can’t wait to read your story 🙂

    1. Alina! So, addicted? I guess this is one of the few times in life I would support addiction. 🙂

      I agree wholeheartedly about deadlines. I think that’s what I’m going to have to implement in my work. The worse part in this scenario, though, is it’s only a 4,000 word story. 15 pages. You’d think I was writing a huge tome or something!

      I will always happily email you a copy. 🙂

  3. Sean, My philosophy that you’ll just know. But, I understand the wanting to go in and tweak the story, the blog post, the whatever. We are always second guessing ourselves. But, that little voice inside that says, “It’s done” is our gut feeling. Our intellect then wants to go in and make it perfect. But, we are not perfect. Nor is every piece of writing. Breathe, relax and let it be.

  4. WOW Sean, first let me say that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts tonight. My outlook on my photography and art is I just know when I am done. Something about the process comes to an end point for me. For example I’ve been working on this book for over two years now, even though I’ve published others, for some reason this particular book just doesn’t feel right. with the other books my heart felt right,my soul felt complete, but that isn’t the case with this book and it is sort of frustrating.

    1. Thanks for replying, KengiKat! Much appreciated. Yeah, it’s frustrating for sure. This is going to sound so lame, but I get that “tortured artist” affliction. I’m by no means claiming to be an artist, but I just want my work to be the best that it can. I can’t imagine what it’ll be like when I’m published (WHEN, not IF)…I’ll be just like Donna Tartt, going into bookstores and reading my material, cringing at the most awful lines. 😦

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