Thursday, January 09, 2014
A Writer’s Coat Moment
See, there was this coat. Not just any coat; it was the perfect coat. The right price, the right color, the right style. It was maybe a bit on the smallish side, but I wasn’t worried. I slid the coat over my shoulders…and felt a pull.
Uh-oh, I thought. That is not a good pull. It was a (very) tight pull, a pull that clearly said, “Stop now and the coat doesn’t get hurt.”
I shucked the coat, completely deflated. I was so sure that coat would fit. Probably because in my mind, that number on the tag is still my size. When I held that coat up in front of me, I saw my once-younger-and-svelte self, twirling about in folds of woolen fabric. But good, old reality reminded me that I’m no longer svelte and there would be no coat-swirling for me.
As the writing fates would have it, later that same day, I was tackling a manuscript revision, when I had a “coat moment.”
See, the writing on the page just didn’t fit the writing in my head. In my mind’s eye, the writing is perfect; words flow with unsurpassed literary quality, expressing so clearly the intricate themes and plots in my head. I’m Flannery O'Connor, J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman rolled into one. But when I read what I’ve written…well, it’s like that ill-fitting coat, and I’m completely deflated.
But you know what? I suspect that most writers have their coat moments. In fact, if you’re like me, you have your coat moments on a fairly regular basis.
And I think that’s probably a good thing. It’s the coat moments that push us to pick ourselves up, to work a little harder. I hunkered down and went back to work on that manuscript that day, and I’ll bet you do the same thing. Coat moments give us the incentive to keep striving, to up our game in this competitive business of writing.
The start of a new year gives us a push, too. It’s an opportunity to think about how we can improve our writing, and what we need to do to bridge that gap between what’s on the page and what’s in our heads. Specific goals will get us the fit we’re looking for.
As for that coat…I gave it to my much younger and still svelte daughter. There’s another perfect coat out there for me, and someday, I’ll find it.
~Cathy C. Hall