To my horror, I’ve just read that people can spend years and years working on a single literary oeuvre.
Years, already. Oy vey. Who knew?
As a nitpicker born and bred, this would ordinarily be music to my ears, because there’s absolutely nothing I love more than working on something intricate and really complex that I can fuss over. (I knit lace for entertainment; does that tell you something?)
But in fact, I’m anything but pleased to know about this literary thing.
Why is that, you may ask. Well, since you’ve asked, I’ll tell you.
If it takes all those years to write a book, then it’s clear that I’m much too old for this writing business; I simply won’t live long enough to write an entire book!
Apparently, you see, there is always just that one more rewrite that could potentially uncover the perfect bons mots that will magically transmute all those other thousands of ordinary, mundane words we’ve churned out into solid literary gold.
Therefore, above all else, we must keep struggling along, nose-to-pencil as it were, until we find that elusive, magic, perfect spot: the wordsmith’s Grail. The literary G-spot.
Harrumph. Since I’m practically older than God now, I suppose I’d better start looking for some kind of writing that I can actually complete before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
Oh, wait a minute….I’ve got it, by George!
I’ll get off my buttinsky and concentrate on writing perfect paragraphs.
Three of them, to be exact.
That project should take me the rest of what’s left of my miserable life. Then I’ll leave one golden paragraph to each of my kids—who are the reason I wanted to write a book in the first place.
Obviously, I’m way out of my depth here in thinking I can write an actual book. Lesson 1 in Susannah’s Unwritten Handbook of Life, entitled How to Survive in the Literary World will have to read “Don’t be trying to swim with the big fishies when you’re just a wee crappie.”
So okay. Perhaps I shouldn’t be writing an actual tome.
But, come hell or high water, I’m going to keep on writing my little blog posts, because it’s fun, it’s healthy (at least emotionally), and it’s good exercise for my atrophying brain.
[We won’t mention the fact that the aforesaid buttinsky is enlarging by the second from being parked on my computer chair for hours at a time, or that my cervical spine is beginning to melt into my shoulder blades. I’m also pretty sure that my mouse hand is about two inches longer than the non-mouse one. No, we won’t go there.]
But Jeez Louise, I really did want to write an entire book.
You know what? There’s also this niggling memory that’s been buzzing around in my head. It’s something my professor in Visual Arts 101 used to tell us students. What was it she said?
Oh yes, I’ve got it now:
She taught us budding artistes that as we struggle with whatever work of art we are attempting to produce, there will inevitably come a point when we must prevent our dripping paintbrush from slapping so much as one additional mark onto that canvas.
At that point, we absolutely must tear ourselves away from the muse, look elsewhere until our distance vision has once again kicked in, take a deep breath, and say to ourselves, “Good enough.”
You see, it’s apparently not just possible, but actually incredibly easy, to completely ruin a perfectly respectable piece of art by not knowing when to stop working it.
Yes, Virginia, there really is such a concept as “good enough,” and it’s designed to prevent endless overworking in the world of graphic art.
Personally, I think “good enough” was terrific advice, especially for a raging perfectionist like me.
Not only that, but these words of wisdom are equally applicable to an endless variety of other endeavours in life, artistic or otherwise.
You know what? I think I’ll get back to my book after all.