Thursday, March 18, 2010
As of last night, I'm approximately 3,800 words into a new short story, and I still have handwritten materials to transcribe. (If my daughter hadn't decided to wake up at 12:20am and stay awake until after 3am, I think I would have gotten it all typed up, but that's another story.)
This is very exciting to me -- I tend to underwrite rather than overwrite, so it feels absolutely wonderful to have something this substantial that is not merely the first 5% or so of a novel. (Plus, if it stays under 8K, I can submit it to One Story.)
Despite this excitement, however, last night I started to feel a little run down. A little weary of the piece, even though so much of it is fresh and interesting to me. A little... lazy.
I've been typing for ages, my brain insists, surely we must be done with this one by now.
In many areas of my life, I've noticed that I have a "close enough" problem. I'll clean up 95% of the dirty dishes, and then leave out a single water glass or leave a single pot to wash the next day. I'll do laundry, then fail to put the clean, folded, ironed clothes in the closets. I'll tidy up the vast majority of the house, then leave a single messy pile of unsorted mail and receipts on the front hallway table. Why? Because I've worked so hard already. And anyway, shouldn't someone else take it from here?
Worse, sometimes I don't even realize I've done it. What are you talking about, honey? I cleaned the whole house, top to bottom! Oh. That mess over there. Huh. Yeah, I didn't really see that bit. Oops.
Fortunately, I love to edit, so I always (eventually!) catch it in my writing if I quit working too soon... plus I'm not deluded enough to think that an agent or editor really will pick up my slack if I were to submit an unpolished piece of writing. And also fortunately, I've had some beta readers who are willing to read a 95% complete piece if I just need to get it the heck off my desk for a while before I can tackle the last finishing touches. They get it. Sometimes you have to just type [INSERT CONNECTING SCENES HERE] and let it go for a while.
But I'm glad that I correctly identified the problem last night; I wasn't tired, I was just in a close-enough state of mind. So I powered through (at least, until Serious Girl made it clear that going back to sleep was not happening any time soon). And I think I got some good outlining done as a result.
DOES THIS EVER HAPPEN TO YOU? Do you catch the problem every time? Do you just accept the urge and walk away for a while, or do you keep pushing at it?