As human beings, many of us seek perfection in one form or another. As human beings we are incapable of perfection. Yet striving for that Platonic ideal is often a driving force that takes us to heights we might never otherwise have achieved. But like most quests for the unattainable, the search for perfection can lead to dissatisfaction and poor self-esteem when we don’t come up to our own high standards (or those of others).
I remember seeing a movie made about Karen Carpenter (of the Carpenters. Hopefully you’re old enough to remember them, LOL!) She was this amazingly talented woman who achieved world-wide success in her field, but because of one reporter’s comment about her putting on weight she fell into the anorexic trap, which finally killed her. I remember being both furious with that reporter and saddened by the thought that such a bright shining light could be destroyed by her perception of her own imperfection. I also realised that it didn’t matter how many people applaud us, if we focus on our imperfections they can destroy everything else in our lives. The Dark can overtake the Light.
I am the first person to acknowledge that I’m not a great writer. For a long time that fact stopped me from getting my stories out into the world. When you’ve studied the masters it’s hard to look favourably at your own poor scribblings. But then I realised that I didn’t aspire to be a great writer because it wasn’t the writing that interested me, it was the story or message I was conveying that was important. If I could do a ‘good enough’ job conveying that message then I was the kind of writer I wanted to be.
A wonderful writer (a serious contender for greatness in the future I believe) called Blakely Chorpenning read the first in my Werewolf Keep Trilogy and wrote a very incisive review of it here: http://indiscriminatewrites.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/guardian-of-werewolf-keep-by-nhys.html
She later offered to betaread my next Werewolf Keep story and I jumped at the chance. She finished that a few weeks ago and I took almost all her suggestions on board and made it a better book. It’s available now on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Imprisoned-Werewolf-Keep-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00FYXBHRS and will be free for 5 days starting 31st October 2013.
That’s the plugs over. Now for the point of this post. I can’t leave well enough alone, when it comes to my stories. What I love about the ebook revolution is that you don’t have to. I can publish and then republish and then republish again, nipping and tucking ad infinitum. So, after working through Blakely’s suggestions for Imprisoned at Werewolf Keep I started applying the same suggestions to the first in the Trilogy, Guardian of Werewolf Keep. So, even though the original story has been polished repeatedly and proofed professionally, I could still see how it could be improved. Which meant that instead of writing more stories, which is my passion, I’m backtracking again, working toward a perfection I know I will never achieve.
There is a fine line between working toward perfection to produce the best you are capable of doing, and getting side-tracked away from your goal by the unimportant details. The key to determining which side of the fine line you fall is the word unimportant.
A friend of mine insists that paving stones in her yard be laid perfectly, something her more slap-dash husband has problems with at times. But for her, because of a physical challenge that makes walking difficult, having those pavers just right means she can walk securely across them. That focus on detail is important.
So, how important is improving Guardian to my main purpose – conveying the message? That’s what I have to keep in mind every hour I spend on rewrites. Because the Werewolf Keep stories are not really about werewolves. They’re about Jung’s Shadow and our need for self-acceptance. Therefore, because the message is incredibly important, I have come to believe that spending the extra time improving the form will get the message across more effectively. So in this case the details are not unimportant. But I never want to become like a writer I heard about who has taken years to write one book and is still doing revisions before he puts it out there.
Bottom line: a poorly conveyed message is better than no message at all.