I wrote a draft of Calvin. I thought it was perfect. For about a day.
I rewrote Calvin. I thought it was perfect. This feeling lasted for three days.
I rewrote Calvin. This time it seemed perfect for a whole week, long enough for me to think it was ready for my editors’ eyes.
I sent my perfect manuscript to my publishers April 2014. I waited for them to write me and say it was perfect, that this would be the first book in the history of publishing that would skip the editorial process and go straight to copy editing.
Instead I got a four page letter saying everything that still needed work. Not just little things. Big things. As I read the letter I knew my editors were right. They were right on every point, in fact.
Over eight months, and several more editorial letters each the size of a packet letter, each one as right as the one before, the book slowly improved. Eight months after I thought it was already perfect, Margaret and Shelley finally said it was done. Not perfect, but done. A negotiated done.
I gained ten pounds birthing that book, as I often do with books and babies. I gain weight because I have to eat to medicate myself while I am enduring the discomforts of revision, while I am chopping out hundreds or even thousands of words, while I am recognizing over and over that perfection is not my destiny. I eat carrots at first, and then I progress (or regress) to crackers with cream cheese, and finally I hit rock bottom with cupcakes and chocolate and chips. I only crave things that start with C.
While I am eating and working, I try to think it will be worth it. This book will be for somebody. This book, this time, will matter. This book will be my first perfect book.
But then my mind is plagued by a recurring image: I am standing by the Grand Canyon, right at the edge, and in my chubby arms is a stack of all my imperfect books. One by one I throw them over the edge. One by one they fall into the silence, fall and fall and fall, and you can’t hear anything when they hit bottom. They don’t flutter or scream or cry out when they are thrown over the edge. They die meekly. Sometimes I fling the book and laugh. Sometimes I let it droop out of my hands and into the abyss, and I weep in a pretty, non-mucousy way.
Am I feeling sorry for myself?
Yes. Yes, I am. I spare you the trouble.