Every year we get all kinds of holiday and Christmas cards ––I bet you get them too––you know the ones with pictures of beautifully perfect families? There isn’t any gum stuck in Susie’s hair and you can hardly see where baby brother so helpfully cut it out, the dog is sitting quietly and not peeing on the new rug, and no one is wearing underpants on their head. The impression is: this life is always like this.
Books are like that, too. You read a published book and the impression can be: this book was always like this.
I thought of this again when my Facebook friend Sherry posted a picture of her family’s last Christmas card portrait. There were her seven adorable and perfectly behaved and coiffed grandchildren. Even the babies were perfect. Then I scrolled a little further down and saw her video of what was going on before all that perfection: the charming and universal mess of kids being kids.
Here is the card, and then the video below.
There is a universal mess of the first draft as well. No one gets it right right away. Personally, and especially when I’m at the beginning of a project, (or stuck!) I forget to not compare my writing with whatever book I’m reading. What I forget is that this impressive book has been revised over many drafts; it’s been edited and revised and edited and revised again. And probably again. All that happens before I get to a moment when I smack Jerry (gently!) on the arm and say, “OMG,” and make him listen to me read the fabulous parts aloud.
I want to remind you of this. No one gets it right right away. It can be a real mess at first. it’s good to get critiques from knowledgeable writers and keep working on your writing until it’s tight and every word is there for a reason.
If you’re on my mailing list, then you read in the last email about reading as much as you can. Allow yourself to absorb great writing and be encouraged by it. Notice how the author created that character you’re so attached to. How do they make you know what the room smells and feels like?
P.S. If you want to learn to write better and within a community, if what you’re looking for are live virtual critique workshops and expert Q&As, maybe you should be one of my neighbors. That’s what I call the members of my Writers’ Block. Click here to check it out.