Saturday, April 01, 2006

Hope Springs Eternal (or am I the only nut out there?)

It’s spring -- the bulbs are blooming, birds are nesting, and I’m eyeing the empty flower pots in my garage, anxious to dig in the dirt. There’s something promising about spring flowers -- they look so colorful and healthy when I first plant them, so HOPEFUL. For once, I think, I’m going to have those vibrant, lush pots I always envision. My deck will overflow with flowers, the pots shimmering with cascading blooms. Of course, eventually the summer heat withers the flowers up, we get too much rain and they rot, or the Japanese beetles descend and shred them into lace. But now, in early spring I still nurture the illusion that this year, the flowers will thrive.

The same thing happens every time I start to write a new book. At the beginning, I’m creating a masterpiece. I love my characters. Their journey beckons to me, intrigues me. And I know I’m going to get it “right” this time -- it will be so emotional, so sexy, so riveting. But then reality sets in and I can’t seem to match my meager skills to the perfection I see in my mind.

Which leads to my great obsession: revising. I’m addicted to revising. I have to confess that I love it -- tinkering with words, rewriting sentences over and over... trying to get that vision in my head onto the blasted page. Revising is the fun part of writing for me. Getting that first draft down on the page is torture, work. But once those words are there, no matter pathetic they sound, I can start to play. And I can’t seem to stop (compulsion alert!). Even when the book comes out, I find myself leafing through the pages, finding words I want to change.

So -- honesty time. Am I just helplessly neurotic, or is this striving for perfection a good thing? Does it mean I’m growing as a writer? Should my husband start padding that cell or can anyone out there relate?

And while I’m waiting for your answer, I’m going to check out those flower pots again. Or maybe I’ll cruise past the nursery and see if they’ve set out their plants. Because I’m going to have the most amazing deck this year...

4 comments:

Terry Z McDermid said...

Okay, I'll confess. I like revising, too. Something about that blank page can be intimidating and the words don't always end up on the paper the wonderful way they sound in my head -- but once the story's in black and white, I can go for it. I love mixing up scenes, rearranging words, finding a better one, cleaning up grammar. . .

Of course, what I don't understand is why your book always opens up to the one page with a sentence/word/phrase you wished you had changed as soon as that new copy is in your hand?!

gailbarrett said...

EXACTLY:) It must be part of Murphy's Law.

Nancy Morse said...

Whenever I read any of my books, I always find a word, a phrase, or something I would write differently if I were writing it today. I'm so addicted to revising that I eventually have to bite the bullet and send the ms out, otherwise, I'd revise it into oblivion.

Alfie said...

Gail,

I've found my twin. I could have written that post, word for word--after I revised it ten times. And yeah, I'm going to the nursery today! My flower beds are going to be gorgeous this year.

Alfie