Friday, December 27, 2013

(Im)perfect writing

With time, with focus, with a writing residency or a full-time writing schedule or a more regimented writing routine, I would write without error. I wouldn't let silly things slip by.

I make mistakes all the time. I am a mistake machine. If you read this blog regularly, you likely know this. I am revising my posts all the time after catching a missing or extra comma, a misspelled word, or a logic error. At one time, I told myself that if things were different (see above), I would appear as flawless as I imagine the best, most notable authors are. But after 15+ years of writing seriously and reading voraciously, I can honestly say that all of the above statements are untrue and flawless writing without help is impossible. Sure, I might be more productive with more time; but blunders, typos and logic errors will always be there to trip me or give me a reality check when I feel full of myself.

I have been thinking about the pang that comes after finding errors in my work, especially older work, a lot lately. I have been thinking about it because I notice it doesn't bother me so much anymore. After all, when I am at work as an editor, I don't think twice when another person makes an error. Instead, I think, well, that's because this person is human, and I move on. If there are excessive errors, I might think the person didn't put much into the work, but a few errors are inevitable. In fact, over the years I've been writing, I have found the more I read published (big press and small press) books, the less alone I feel in my flaws. Even classics sometimes are printed with errors--logic, typo and other--despite the fact that thousands have read these books.

I'm not writing this post to tell you that there's not value in revision, editing, and polishing every manuscript until it is as error-free as possible, but I am saying that if you write and you miss something, don't beat yourself up. Just write more, revise if you can, move onward and forward.

As a teacher, I notice that some of the best storytellers in my class are the hardest critics when it comes to their own writing. If they let something slip, they think they're not cut out for writing or not up to the task. You don't understand, Professor Knox, I looked this over twenty times and never saw that typo. Something must be wrong with me. I must not be cut out for this.

Not true. In fact, quite the opposite tends to be true.

I am writing this post expressly to tell writers out there to do the best they can and never beat themselves up. In fact, if you're a real writer, a writer who is true to your own voice, willing to show your flaws and, more, examine them, you're on a good track. It is those who care, who are humbled by flaws and continue to move forward, who will last in this business. And let's face it, everyone wants to be a writer, but few folks stick with it.

Writing is not easy, and it is not always rewarding in the ways we think it will be. But writing is freedom unlike any other I know, and it will pay you back for your time if you stick with it. Perfect writing, in my opinion, is a myth. Strong writing is not. Strong writing that tells a story is writing that moves its readers. Strong sentences make the reader want to continue on.

Write, rewrite, and revise. But keep telling your stories at the risk of making errors. See each error as an opportunity for growth. If you are a good storyteller, I want to read your work, but I never will if you're too busy trying to be perfect. So, if you're like me and have second guessed yourself a lot, please stop. Think about the following:

1. A strong sentence is a sentence that makes the reader want to continue to read.

2. Mistakes are lessons, and lessons are gifts. Examine them.

3. Those who tell you about your errors are helping you, whether or not you think that is their intention. Thank them.
Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.
Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.
Failure after long perseverance is much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called a failure.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter Solstice (Whew!)

This week has been yet another of my many, many crazy weeks in San Antonio. My electricity went out, and when I went to examine the meter, well, there was no meter. When the CPS folks came out they said it was a common thing to have your meter stolen by someone whose electricity was cut off and whose own meter had been locked. They said it takes a while to trace, so if successfully rigged, the thief will have free electricity for a short time before s/he's caught. Seems a sad crime to me, so I wasn't so much mad as thankful that I had 1. enough money to pay my own electric bill and 2. just bought the battery-powered, stick-it-anywhere INSTAbulb as a joke gift for a white elephant gift exchange at work. That thing is pretty damn handy when someone steals your meter, let me tell you. The white elephant present was promptly replaced with The Perfect Tortilla, and I was good to go until my lights were restored. In other news, the work week was stressful, and my new medication made me break out in hives all week which, as you can imagine, made me quite lovely to look at.

So Saturday eventually came. Whew! Yesterday was Winter Solstice, and it was beautiful outside, just a little cool. Chris and I went to the River Walk to see the lights and dine at Boiler House at Pearl. The food was fantastic, and the service was just shy of okay. It was a small-plate place that had an amazing quinoa with zucchini and golden raisins (soaked in Moscato, so I ordered a Moscato to accompany it). Since fancy for us is usually Outback, it was a nice treat to ourselves. I always feel somewhat awkward at really nice restaurants, mainly because I devour food as if it might run away from me if I don't. It's a bad habit and, like in many other aspects of my life, I am trying to slow it down. The lights were lovely (not in a hives way, but in a real way), and the time was wonderful. My husband has been traveling a lot lately, and my stress levels (for many reasons) have been off the charts. So our night out was especially magical.

In writing news: I'm writing a lot, looking forward to AWP, and applying to residencies where I can finish my Rattle book. More soon.

Happy Everything to All.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tis the Season

I've had a very interesting term this year, with students completely engaged and others barely paying attention. Tis the season. I find that fall classes are often populated by more students who take creative writing "just because" than in other terms. This has been a challenge, but wow, when a student surprises his or herself after outright identifying as a non-writer, it's a great feeling. Grading is done for the term, and I'm coming up for air.

It's December 15th, and I can't believe it. Ten days till Christmas. Sixteen days till we'll bring in the new year. I'm ready. 2013 has been a year of hard work, and though this will likely continue, I plan to make some big changes in 2014.

I always find the turnover of the year an opportunity to improve myself and my situation, so I'm already looking forward to the renewal. This next year, I plan to focus on my writing more, and I have to figure a way to do so (suggestions welcome). Currently, I work an average of 60 hour weeks and write when I can. With a touch more time and focus, I am convinced I could be a very prolific novelist, so that's the goal: to make the time at any cost. As it is, the second novel is coming slowly as I write in fits and starts.

As far as publication news, I have been working with Nate Jordon at Monkey Puzzle Press to release my first chapbook, Don't Tease the Elephants, in March. I'm really excited to move forward with this because it has been a while since I've released a book and this one really represents not only who I am as a writer now but where my writing is going. Feedback is good so far, and I do hope you and the rest of the reading world consider purchasing it when it comes out. I promise it will be worth it.

I was invited to be a January featured author at Connotation Press, thanks to Meg Tuite, and I will be publishing a haunting new story there.

Also, I have just signed a contract to be part of Workers Write! More Tales from the Cubicle, which I am very excited about. That anthology will be released around the same time, in spring.

Off to write a little today before the last full work week at the day job. I wish you all a wonderful week. Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Today needs summarized in list form.

  • Got a new author pic taken (not as traumatic as I thought it'd be, and I have a few... I think I'll go with this one)
  • Bruised my index finger pretty bad by banging it against the shower knob after running
  • Did some Christmas shopping
  • Took Ahti to dog park to find a pug meet-up of some sort (crazy-cool to see dozens of pugs all running around slowly, breathing loud breaths in, it seemed, unison)
  • Ate some pre-packaged salad and got violently ill shortly there after
  • Thought I could run it off, so tried running again, and got more violently ill (Asian salad - Tyler Farms - not saying that did it, but that's what I ate 2 hours before getting violently ill)
  • Watched Sons of Anarchy, which was all about a guy getting ill after taking too many drugs, and I got even more violently ill
  • Started feeling better
  • Graded, graded, graded
  • Started feeling even better (perhaps my students' writings have healing powers)
  • Made ginger tea and began writing this blog post with all intentions of going to sleep directly after


Well, at least I have tomorrow left in my weekend, and tomorrow my husband's returning from a business trip, so as long as I'm not violently ill, it should be a pretty damn good day.

In writing news, I had two stories published since my last post.

I hope you all have a good week.

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