I had the honor this year of winning the “Best Reporting Award” in the Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism Competition. It is an award given by one’s peers and is, thus, very meaningful for its recipients, myself included.
Competitions and critiques aren’t always easy to face, we all know. No one wants to be passed over on an award, have their work torn apart, or see an editor slash and burn what you later must agree was worthless text. It’s tough, but I believe there is value in having your peers evaluate your work.
I’ve had colleagues tell me, in brutal honestly, all the things I could have done better. Happily, I’ve also had some great feedback on my work. I try to remember those nuggets of affirmation.
Today, I had one of those nuggets tossed my way; only it wasn’t from a peer. It was from a young reader who enjoyed a particular turn of phrase in one of my writings.
That is another kind of honor that I cherish.
There is just something so wonderful about formatting a manuscript. I wouldn’t have thought it possible before going through the process. Since then, I’ve found I love it.
Formatting all those hundreds of pages means I’ve finally hit the final stages. Formatting is making my manuscript presentable for others to judge. I’m making the package pretty.
To be sure, I understand that formatting is not the most important step; that honor would go toward actually creating a great story. We all know that proper formatting won’t sell an inferior manuscript.
Still, it’s invigorating to see all that hard work put into a truly professional package that can be shown with pride. Pride. In the end, it’s what the whole “pretty package” thing is all about.
In classic mythology, the muses were the nine daughters of Zeus, each of whom exercised control over an art. Today, we think of the muse as anything that inspires artists and thinkers in their craft. We, as writers, stare at the large (and ever-growing) blank sheet of paper (or white and vibrating screen) and think blithely to ourselves, “When the muse sings to me, I’ll create works of art the likes of which this tiny world has never seen.”
Writing is about writing. Sitting down and doing it. Right now. With your planned or spare minutes. Filling paper. Putting fingers to keyboard.
How many great writers have encouraged us aspirants to just set down the story and worry about fixing it later? How many great stories might never have been written if the author had waited for the muse? Many great writers have encouraged novices to simply let the writing flow, neither waiting for inspiration nor stopping to edit. It’s the mental equivalent on vomiting your thoughts all over the place and wiping it clean later. Hmmm, that’s not a pretty thought, is it? Our first writings aren’t all that pretty, either. C’mon, admit it.
I would propose that this advice should in itself be our muse. We writers should write, even in our random five-minutes free, for years and years, in the hopes that, someday, we’ll get it right.
Why do I say this? As much for my inspiration as anyone else’s. We writers — well, we humans in general, I suppose — hope for exactitude and perfection so very far ahead of the time needed to achieve it.
Here’s to shooing the muse! Here’s to covering pages with ink!