As I get closer to querying my novel, I’m of course getting cold feet, which I voiced to a writing group. This was a response:
In her most recent message, ED wrote about being hesitant to send out a novel because “it’s not as good as it could be.” She quotes a character in a story of L M [Montgomery]’s as saying to a would-be writer, “‘You’ll never write anything that really satisfies you though it may satisfy other people.'”
This reminds me of comments made to me by David Foster, then head of the Fine Arts Department at the University of Oregon. He said that when an artist works, the work is for the artist first, and for anyone else second. He said that Art is a process of discovery conducted by the artist, and that any discoveries made in the course of producing one piece only lead to the need for further exploration in the next. No artist is ever satisfied with his or her work, because that work is only one step on a road that will never end — the road to understanding. So artists churn out works, and as each one is produced it teaches the artist something; as the lesson is absorbed, the work that provided it loses value — it has been exhausted. If these works can help others — readers, viewers, listeners — to improve their understanding, then the works have continued value for them, but the artist is on to new explorations.
Foster went on to say that trying to make any work of art “perfect” is a mistake, because it simply distracts the artist from the true course of his or her explorations. It’s like Crick and Watson refusing to divulge their findings on DNA until they’d figured out how to do gene splicing and cloning. An art work is not a final product. It is an experiment, and it may be more or less successful in the artist’s estimation. Whether the artist regards it as a success or as a failure, it may or may not be of value to others. Everybody’s exploratory path is different. For the artist to try to make something perfect is simply to expend further effort on an experiment that has already served its primary purpose….
So, ED, don’t worry about getting it absolutely right. Don’t go after those diminishing returns. Don’t be overly concerned with which piece of parsley to use as the garnish. You’ve cooked the meal, it smells wonderful, the flavors complement each other deliciously, and your guests will agree with you that it is wonderfully nourishing. Your guests that aren’t lactose intolerant, that is. Or gluten-aversive. Or vegan. But there are other cooks cooking for them.
I know it’s time to throw the baby from the nest. I know changing a couple words here and there won’t change anything overall. But damn is it still daunting.