A Writer’s Work is Never Done

I am writing a book and it is exhausting. I remember hearing my English teachers say such things and I didn’t exactly believe them. I mean, I knew it was a bit of work, getting a piece of writing exactly the way I wanted it. But I knew, too, that the basic writing of ideas came fairly easily to me. So easily that I chose to major in English…a degree which my husband, I might add, does not hesitate to scoff (albeit kindly) at. He’s an engineer…and I can’t deny the fact that he’s the one making the money in this household. Thank God for the scientifically-minded…but, I also have to ask, do we not need the writers to keep us amused? I hope?!

Yes, writing is stressful. But it’s also something I love. I can’t NOT do it. But writing blithely off the top of one’s head is different from editing. I’ve been living in the editing world for so long now that I’m not sure I’ll know how to get out of it…though I won’t have to worry about that for a few more months, at least.

Editing is stressful because, really, is a piece of writing ever really done? Is it ever really perfect?

Perfectionism is a curse and a fallacy when it comes to writing. I truly believe it’s impossible for a writer to ever be totally satisfied with their entire book. One or two phrases here and there may feel almost perfect…but then I worry that I’m somehow blind to their faults, that they’re perhaps overly sentimental or too wordy or that they contain some other horrifying writer’s sin like a run-on sentence or a split infinitive. (What is a split infinitive? I don’t know. But I’ll know it’s wrong if I see it!) And so I fear even those “perfect” phrases. They’re the ones editors tend to CHOP.

In college I wrote a poem titled “Killing my Babies” about that exact thing…cutting out lines that I love but that simply need to go for whatever reason. No, I won’t copy that poem for you here…wouldn’t want to lose any readers due to my terrible collegiate scribbles! (And, by the way, I don’t think that I’d use that title again, having children of my own now. Feels a little distasteful…and overly dramatic. Yet another writer’s sin.)

Yes, writing this book has been intense. I can’t even remember exactly when I started it, but I think that it was 4 ½ years ago. Writing goes slowly when you only have an average of 2 ½ hours twice a week to dedicate to it. (Pre-school and/or napping pre-schooler hours.) The end date is fluid, too, as I am finding out. The reality is, it will never be done…until I’m forced to just simply stop perfecting it due to a publisher’s deadline…which, of course, is what I want! And so, I’m beginning that dreaded hunt to find a publisher and/or an agent. This is the phase of book-writing that I’ve feared and dreaded for years. The phase that has kept me from ever seriously attempting a book before. I’m putting on my thick skin. I’m asking my husband to dedicate some of his hard-earned engineer money to this, and I’m diving into the deep end. And I can’t even swim. But, hopefully, the fact that I’ve edited my brains out will be a life-raft.

2 thoughts on “A Writer’s Work is Never Done

  1. Congratulations on reaching this stage with your book! This is a fantastic accomplishment, so I hope you are celebrating with some of that engineer’s hard-earned money (to which I can relate, except that my husband is an automotive machinist.).

    I can relate to the perfectionism issue, too. Is it just the writer’s curse?

    I would wish you luck except I doubt you need luck when you possess such talent in writing. When you land your book deal, I would like to be among the first to hear.

    Congratulations, Gretchen, on making it this far already with your book.

  2. I will most definitely let you know in a hurry! thanks, Audrey. It feels great to be making progress – and also overwhelming at all that is left to do. But it’s good, too.

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