Friday, February 8, 2013

Whooshing Sounds

By Russel D McLean

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by" - Douglas Adams

At this moment in time, I am on a deadline. Both for the new novel and because The Literary Critic is in her car on the way here.

Deadlines are an essential part of the writer's life. They are the very thing that keep us going, that make us sit up and pay attention. You can ignore them, stick to them religiously, or you can do whatever the hell you feel like, but the fact is that deadlines remind all writers that there is work to be done and that there is an end in sight.

Without deadlines nothing would ever get done.

Now, you can argue and rant and rave that the muse needs to take hold and that no art should be held to a deadline of any sort, but in my thinking you'd be plain wrong. Because if given the opportunity and the funding I think most artists - whether painters, authors, actors, whatever - would keep focusing on the little things, always fiddling with a little something here and a tiny widget there. I know I would. I would go word by word through every one of my manuscripts forever and always find something new to change. If I didn't have deadlines, I would be a literary Sisyphus, condemned forever to keep going through the manuscript and changing this word here and that word there.

But at some point you have to let the manuscript out in the world, accept that it is right for that moment, if not for all time, that it deserves a life beyond your pedantic scrutiny.

I've talked before about how I won't go back and edit old, published work to make it better or more in line with what I envision it as being now. Because a literary work is of its time. Once that deadline has passed, once the work is out there, you move on. Now, editing for technical reasons (a misspell here or a wrong date there) is great but going back to try and rip out the guts of something and make it new, more in line with who you are as an artist, now? That's nonsense. Its counter-productive. Just because you don't like the old work doesn't mean someone else won't.

Which has rambled a little off the point. The point in question being that deadlines are good things. They focus the mind. They help guys like me remember that at some point the work has to be finished.

Sometimes they make a whooshing sound. But even then, that noise reminds me that I need to get a move on, that I need to make up for missing the deadline. And finally, finish the damn book.

Or in this case, the damn blog post.

1 comment:

Jose Luis Cervantes said...

So true, completely agree. You gotta let it go. I like the like "Because a literary work is of its time...once the work is out there, you move on." And it's a relief to move on in many ways.