Saturday, 21 February 2009

Moonwalk without me

Coldplay once sang "the hardest part was letting go, not taking part". I agree with the first bit, but would like to adapt the line slightly for my purposes.

*Clears throat*

"The hardest part was letting go, posting the manuscript and chapter breakdowns, trying to justify a few stylistic and voice decisions in a short letter and then sitting back and waiting for the editor's critique..."

Moonwalking has started another journey. It's gone south - back to Cornwall, where it all began. But there's one difference: this time I wasn't invited. The manuscript for the introduction and pre-chapter 1 (a little unconventional, I agree) dropped into the void of a Saturday post box this morning and in the next couple of days will be bent, twisted and abused on its way to Penryn, where an editor (who happens to be a friend) is poised with red pen.

I think other writers will agree that this stage of the creative process is the hardest. The hardest part. The letting go. And the other stuff. This is what happens: you beget an idea; it grows; you look after it, shade it from insult, defend its flaws; it fledges. But it's not streetwise - it's been coddled. But you push it from the cliff of comfort (it's always sunny on this cliff, with long, soft grass) into the sea of criticism (see my metaphor history here). It would be like mummy blackbird sending her most loved son into a fox den, just as a test, just to see how maimed it can become.

No, it's not that bad (it sometimes is). But doing this, I guess, proves you're serious about writing. There are thousands of writers out there who don't let people read their work. Yet they expect to get published. I've had to explain to a couple the difficulty with this approach. An old tutor once told me I needed to learn to "kill my babies". I didn't have a baby, so instead murdered three local children*. I soon learned she meant reduce my personal connection to my writing and understand others' input is more important. Silly me. I felt stupid. But of course it's true.

If you see Galileo's first sketches of the moon through his homemade telescope, you'll spot some minor flaws in them. He got some of it wrong (I mean in no way to undermine the great man's work; compare a Galileo sketch with a modern day photograph and you'll see what I mean). Perhaps his eye problems contributed to these discrepancies. Perhaps he didn't quite understand libration (see nyctionary) in 1609. Either way, it took others to point out that as incredible as GG's sketches were, they weren't perfect. Now I'm not going to compare my work to Galileo's. It's just it always takes a fresh pair of eyes and different brain to properly critique a book, a design, a sketch or even a theory.

will return home with the red glow of a lunar eclipse burning from every scrawl and scribble. I'll look at it and weep uncontrollably until I realise I'm being an idiot. Then I'll retire. Then make a comeback. Then who knows.

And this is before it even goes to a publisher.

* I didn't!

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