God I am a miserable wretch.
What is it Leonardo once said? “Art is never completed, only abandoned?” I thought I had worked out all the kinks with my novel by now, and was pleased as punch when the galley copy arrived the other day.
For those who don’t know, the galley is the copy that is sent to the printers. It’s the last chance for the author to look for typos, and now that I’m into it I’m convinced it’s also a form of torture.
There are three different parts of my brain at work here, you see. The part that is looking for typos and actual mistakes, the part that is thinking “I really should re-write this whole sentence and maybe the next,” and the part that has looked over the story so many times it can’t be sure if that bit over there is actually a mistake or not and agonizes over it. Have you ever written a single word so many times it no longer looks like a real word? Imagine a whole book like that.
I’m one chapter in and I already feel like I need a shot of whiskey to get through the night.
But this is far from an unusual feeling, ask any writer. Debbie Ridpath Ohi did a comic that illustrated this feeling perfectly. I’ve posted it before, but it bears repeating.
That pretty much sums it up. A doctor is his own worst patient and a writer is his own worst critic.
And the fact is I probably could do it better now. That’s the wonderful thing about writing. Every time you do it you learn new things. Since Bleeding Heart Yard I’ve written two more novels, each (in my opinion) better than the last.
But do I still like the book? Of course! Even as I brood over one sentence not sounding right I’ll find two more that put a smile on my face. I like the story, I like the characters, I like everything about it. I’m just prone to nitpicking. Leave me in a room with a sweater that has a loose thread and my morning I’ll give you a ball of yarn.
So after this novel, and the next, and the next, and twenty more after that, I need to remember the wise words of another famous turtle when he was 87 and was still kicking ninja butt:
“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo