Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Surgery

Book editing is like surgery sometimes, and your beta readers are your best doctors and nurses, and yet the final surgery depends on you!

Just when you think the last bug has gone extinct, you find something else. Or you know something is wrong, or your doctors tell you something is wrong, but you're in denial (doctors are the worst patients - writers are the worst crittees), until the symptoms keep showing up, and you know something must be done. Or else the warts or bugs or tumors will always be there eating away everything.

But let's face it, surgeries are painful. It takes time to heal, and often there are complications or new problems, and more fixes need to be applied. And  you wonder if you'd come out alive or whole again. Would you be a better person? Or would you be a patchwork like Frankenstein's monster?

Fortunately, the best surgeons usually do the job well. That's when we, as writers, must sharpen our skills and improve our craft. The point isn't to write something perfect from the get go. the point is that when problem arises, we'd know and understand the need to do necessary surgeries, to fix any warts and bugs and tumors and ailments. Like everything else, the first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem - an illness, a cancerous growth... I think for us, that's the hardest thing, to listen to your doctor and realize: OMG, I have cancer, and I need to have X and Y cut out... But once you take the first step to acknowledge that, the rest would come naturally: you know what you must do if you want to live.

Writing is kind of like that, too. And right now, I'm doing surgeries, some minor, and some not so. They can be painful. But they are all necessary, and I'm glad I have the opportunity before the book goes to die.


Projection

A friend of mine recently sent me something that gave me a pause:

Projection is the biggest danger.. seeing what you want instead of what is actually there is what causes us to invest when we shouldn't. Better to take it slowly. I think a lot of these problems occur because we don't value ourselves enough to make the other person take equal risk, then we beat ourselves up for trying.
He was, of course, talking about love and relationship, but I think the general idea also applies to everything else: career, friendship, goal, life, etc.

As an idealist, I'm guilty of projecting - a lot. Instead of focusing on the moment and taking in what life has to offer, right now, I project. I immediately launch myself far in the future and interpret things according to what I want to see, instead of what is actually there. Facts become signs and signs becomes destiny and destiny becomes action items. And the results are not always good, because when we project, the vision is blurred and skewed, thus the signs are often wrong, and the outcome thusly turns out not as we expect.

There's another thing: expectation, which goes hand in hand with projection. When we see something that may or may not be there because of our projection, we begin to expect something in return, something to happen.  A + B must = C....  The problem is, even if A and B are correct, C may never happen. Worse, A and B might be wrong in the first place because of our projections. The result is a whole bag of disappointment and frustration.

Now, does that mean we should never invest? Of course not. There are things that is worthwhile to pursue. And we know in our heart what is real and important. When we make a connection with someone, we can most likely instinctively tell if it's real or not, instead of just empty infatuation or "daydreaming." Same with our career goals: it's good to fantasize, but deep down we know what is an attainable dream and what is just empty fantasies. The trick is to figure out which is which, and to know the facts and understands what is real and what is not, and then invest thusly.

Invest in what is important.

But take it slow.

Part of my own problem is also that I am impatient. While some people may spend their entire lifetime finding "the right one" or excelling in a profession, I tend to want it to happen quickly. 20 years to write a great novel or build a career? That's taking too long. And I'm not alone. Many people "settle" for the first person they "fall in love" with even if their instinct tells them something isn't quite right. Many people don't want to invest their time and energy in a long-term goal. In this fast-food nation, everything has to be instant and gratifying or else ... oh shiny....

But there's a saying: "Good things come to those who wait." When we heard of overnight successes, chances are there's nothing "overnight" about them. When we heard about a match made in heaven, chances are it wasn't borne of "love at first sight" (we're all so spoiled and screwed by fairytales). For example, most successful couples I know started off as friends, and their love grew from that simple friendship. Many people I know who "fell in love at first sight" ended up in divorce court. I know some writers who got their "big break" quickly after they've spend years perfecting their craft (with 10 trunk novels to proof it). So I think there's merit in "good things come to those who wait."

Alas!  Given that I'm an idealist, a perfectionist, and an impatient man, I'm doomed.