Still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets and
Every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test
— Changes, David Bowie
I’m freaking sick of changes — with my writing, that is. I’m pretty sure I can find things to revise indefinitely. Every time I give a manuscript “just one more run-through, to polish it,” I find something to improve on. My critique partners attribute this to a kind of fear of flying — or fear of submitting, anyway — but, I promise you, this is not the case.
I was submitting things that I was absolutely sure were wonderful a year and a half ago. I want to crawl in a hole and hide when I think about those submissions. I know I could make them a lot better now, and I’m trying to do just that. The problem is, when will it end?
I’ve been a professional writer for about twenty years, making a decent — if not particularly well-paid — living by words on the page/computer. But I only dove into the fiction pool about two years ago. That pool is deep and murky and scary, but thrilling, too. Problem is, I’m still learning how to swim, fiction-wise.
I’m no spring chicken, and I’m used to writing-as-work. Deadlines? No problem? Marketing? Pshaw, I’ve been doing my own marketing for years. Working with editors, publishers? Been there, done that — and we’re still friends, even though my books are long out of print.
It’s an odd feeling to be old and new at the same time in this writing game. I’m learning things I thought I already knew, and my writing is getting better, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m confident about some aspects of my writing, while other things have me shivering like a kid in a haunted house.
You don’t have to tell me I’m writing this blog as a form of avoidance — hello? Why do you think I started the damn thing? But sometimes slipping over here gives the scene I’m stuck on a chance to coalesce into something smoother or sharper. (Come on, brain — I’m still waiting for that light bulb to go off!) I’ve deleted as much as I’ve written in this round of revisions, and I’m sure that’s a trend that will continue.
When will the changes stop? Will I ever be able to look at a story and say, “This is absolutely word perfect; there is nothing left to fix.” I have trouble imagining that. I read once that Garrison Keillor will mark up copies of his printed books with improvements he’d like to make — ooh, could I ever relate!
Bowie said it best: “My time was running wild, A million dead-end streets and Every time I thought I’d got it made, It seemed the taste was not so sweet.” That’s exactly how I feel whenever I think a story is just right. And the Faker — Imposter Syndrome — keeps insisting I retake that test. I’m sick of the bloody ch-ch-ch-changes, but I’m still not sure the story is ready to submit.
What about you? Does Imposter Syndrome cause you to make constant changes to your stories? Are you trapped in an endless cycle of revisions and write-and-delete, too? (Please don’t say it’s just me!)