I know not everyone who reads this blog is into music, but I love the stuff. The creation of a song is similar to writing a book in many ways. There’s layers, nuances, varying skills, lots of editing and lots of hard work. Husband sent me this article written by musician John Bohlinger. He was trying to learn an important song for the Country Music Television Awards. What struck me most is how he wasn’t really able to learn the part as perfectly as he wanted. He had to fall back to “Do what you know.” The arts involve a LOT of this type of “failure.” Sometimes we aren’t skilled enough to pull off a certain type of story. Maybe we fail a secondary character because we don’t develop the character enough. Maybe we fail the reader because we aren’t quite funny enough or don’t take the plot line where the readers want to go. We writers are always learning. We go back to the basics, we study technique, we try again.
The thing is, we have to write what we CAN. We can’t always find the perfect nuance. We have a performance to pull off. Most of us have deadlines, whether they are self imposed for financial reasons or just to keep our sanity. You can only work on a book, a song or a piece of artwork for so long. At some point, you have exhausted your skill level, your patience and your ideas. That is not the same thing as lazy writing, which is a whole different topic. As an editor, I know what lazy writing is. It’s when the author whines and says, “I could add that, but isn’t it really okay the way it is?” Not usually, no. Or worse, the writer says, “Just change it. I don’t care how you fix it.” Uh, no. YOU are the writer in this case. I am the editor. I don’t write FOR you. Yes, I’ve had clients actually ask me for a price quote to “finish the story. It’s all there except the ending, but if you finish it and edit it, we can put your name on it too.” Doesn’t work that way. I have my own projects. I don’t want to write your story. (After that kind of offer, I don’t even want to edit for that writer and will not edit for that writer.)
When people ask me how I turn my ideas into a book, I don’t have a good answer because it isn’t a pretty answer. Writing a book involves an enormous amount of failure. There are so many imperfections–some that I see, but choose to live with and many that I don’t. You put the book out there hoping the reader is satisfied and doesn’t see that extra word that isn’t really necessary. You hope they like the cover enough to buy the book and give it a chance. Maybe they decide against the book because the font is too curly or not curly enough. You hope that little writing trick you used flows, but it might be more like sunlight bouncing off a mirror. There’s no other band members to help carry you or cover up your flubs. It’s just you, Miss Grammar and the reader. In music, you hope the listener doesn’t have big ears. In writing, you hope the reader falls into the story and forgets to look for stains, scratches and imperfections. Music isn’t as easy as it sounds. Neither is writing a novel.