It’s somewhat painful to admit (although I suspect I’m part of a large crowd in this), but I’ve struggled most of my life with starting stories and with finishing what I start. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of my frustrations with what I wrote being an imperfect expression of what was in my head. Over the past few years, I’ve worked on getting past that. Chuck Wendig’s recent blog post on the topic is an excellent reminder to kick the idea of perfection in the junk and just get on with writing, glorifying in its imperfections. A literature professor in college once told me something to the effect of “the best writing has cracks in it,” which makes a lot of sense to me.
My big worry lately has been finding critique partners and editors who “understand what I’m trying to do with my fiction”…which seems impossible, of course, because isn’t my fiction unlike anyone else’s? At a writers panel at Planet Comicon this past weekend, an author told me, “You’re making it like finding your ‘soul mate.’ Don’t worry about it so much. You’ll find people who can help you write better.” That hit me upside the head like a brick. Writing the “perfect” fiction, finding the “perfect” help, reaching the “perfect” audience, is all like trying to find the “perfect” romantic partner. Ain’t no such thing, so just give up and embrace the messiness and uncertainty and incompleteness.
As Oscar Wilde said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Marcel Duchamp said, “I believe that the artist doesn’t know what he does.” Or from Zen Buddhism: “Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.” Or as Dory sang in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”
ADDENDUM: Here’s a video of the aforementioned Planet Comicon panel.