Thursday, December 31, 2009

practice makes perfect

I've almost finished with the galleys and am thankful to have spent more time with Morrow and her menagerie of friends and enemies on the Red River in Kentucke. There are certain scenes I love and never get tired of rereading. They come alive for me and I feel I'm right there in the midst of it all. And then there are some spots where I am ho...hum. Some parts sing and some don't. Some need a bit more work and don't shine as brightly as I like. But I do think we improve in this writing game.

Since I wrote The Frontiersman's Daughter over a 10 year period (with a hiatus of 5 years smack in the middle, something I don't recommend), there are parts of the book that seem like they're written by 2 different people. The "before" and "after" Laura, so to speak. To be honest, the book's end is better than its beginning. But I was a different person at the end of that 10 year period than I was at the beginning. Neither the book or I are perfect, that's for sure, but improved:)

So I guess this just shows that the longer we write or do anything we grow. I've heard it said that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. Think about it! But I'm not sure I believe that about writing. I've whiled away more hours than that since childhood with pen and paper and I'm still not satisfied with what tumbles out of my head and heart. Even Francine Rivers (author of Redeeming Love, etc.) has said she still feels like an apprentice.

So...are you a perfectionist with anything? Cooking? Cleaning? Being holy? Writing? How do you handle the desire to be better than you are? I like to remember that there's only one perfect book. And only one Perfect Being. And He, thankfully, helps make us better than we are.

The Rock! His work is perfect... Deuteronomy 32:4


  1. Hi, Laura! Nice to know your galleys arrived. I am going over my galleys, too, and know--really know!--what you mean about striving for perfection, yet knowing I always will fall short of that. After I read your post, I scrolled to the top of your page and read once again that powerful quote, assuring me--and you, I hope--that the most important thing is that God is in your story! That's the most important part!

    We have lots of snow and ice here in MO! I did get to Port Angeles on December 24 for less than an hour, and took photos of gorgeous scenery! Love PA! Miss it, too! But I also love living across the street from our son here in MO. This morning he and his wife and my granddaughters and I are piling in their van and driving about an hour north of here to visit a book store/coffee shop. We all love book stores and coffee shops!

    Blessings for you in 2010!

  2. I don't think I am a perfectionist at much of anything in particular, but I have been told many times that I am my own worst critic. And I've seen that for myself, more so over the last year than I have before. I think I have learned to take that as a good thing though. At least if I do something that doesn't turn out like I had hoped or expected in the end, I have the assurance that I put 150% into it, just because of the fact that I'm so hard on myself and put all I have into that particular thing. Especially in writing, I think "If I were happy with it the first time, and didn't struggle and work through it, even if it's not 'perfect' in the much less would I appreciate the finished product?"

  3. Linda, Glad to know I'm in fine company and you're a galleys slave like me:) Yes, having Him in our stories is really the only thing that matters. Especially as we co-author these books with Him!

    Glad you got to PA if only for a short stop. Last year we had 2 feet of snow on the ground so glad you'd didn't run into that! Missouri is such a beautiful state. I have fond memories of vacationing there as a child and have been considering doing a Lewis and Clark type novel out of St. Louis there.

    Enjoy your outing today! That's my kind of shopping - coffee and books. Bless you for commenting. It's a joy to keep up with you!

  4. Ashli, I can really relate. I'm my own worst critic, too, but guess that's much better than being someone elses! Your schedule makes my head spin...then I remember that you are 20 years younger than me:) You've had so many challenges this past year and seem to hold everything together so well and still enjoy it!
    You've said something so important - that when we do our best, our 150%, then we can rest as we've really given our all. That's how I feel with these galleys. When I turn them in next week I have the satisfaction of knowing I couldn't have done any more.

    Bless you today and this coming year!

  5. I'm trying to curtail my long legacy of perfectionism by instead striving for excellence. When I try to be perfect I am forever second guessing myself, am disapointed and miserable. That's when I get overwhelmed and sometimes unproductive. My expectations are beyond my reach. But when I endeavor to be excellent at what I do I can say I am doing my absolute best. It is more measurable. More achievable. Perfectionism is a hard habit to break especially if you grew up with your good seeming never to be good enough. I answer to a higher authority now.

  6. Carla, I love your distinction between perfectionism and excellence! The one is completely out of our grasp but the other is not. I needed to hear that today. Seems we all struggle in this way in some form or another. Bless you for such a wise comment!

  7. This reminds me, Laura, of something author Diana Gabaldon said. When she began writing Outlander "for practice" just to see if she could write a novel, she made two promises to herself. One, she would finish it, no matter how bad it turned out. And two, she would do her very best every time she sat down to write. Her very best _on that day_. Which certainly isn't her very best all these years later, but I think that's all we can do, isn't it? Our best today. Then let it go.

    How thankful I am that God doesn't require perfection to get His business done here on earth. How frustrated that would make Him! But how I long to be my best for Him, for those I'm linked to, and for the precious story people who live in my head.

  8. I hadn't read the comment thread before posting. I might as well have said "Ditto!" Being content with doing our best seems to be the theme of the day. Love it!

  9. This is such an appropriate post for the New Year, Laura! God has used a lot of things just recently to show me that I am letting go....letting go of perfectionism and negativity, among other things. I'm looking forward to 2010 with great optimism.....This is beginning to sound like a blog post, so I'll just save it for my blog!

    I didn't know that TFD took 10 years for you to write! We are always growing and evolving in life and that definitely comes through in our writing!

    Glad you are enjoying re-visiting Morrow----I can't wait to meet her for the first time!

  10. How frustrated that would make Him, indeed:) And us - impossible! Love the "precious story people who live in my head." Falling in love with your characters is so important. If we don't, readers won't!

    I often think of what Kay Arthur once said - that our job is to do the work he's called us to do, our very best, and He'll take care of the rest.

  11. Mary, Glad to see you back online. I've missed you! Seems like we writers have a perfectionistic/negative thread to our personalities. You're so right - we have to get a handle on that side of us or it is crippling to life and creativity. Optimism/ renewing our minds is key.

    Yep, 10 years total:) I've often thought I must not be very good at this writing gig as other folks can bang out a book in 3-6 months! But I seem hardwired to do everything the long way.

    Bless you today, Mary!

  12. Your question made me smile. I like to call myself a recovering perfectionist, but my family might not agree with the recovering part. :) I push myself to be the best I can possibly be and do the best I can possibly do.

    The Lord taught me a lesson recently. I had rewritten one of my manuscripts twice, revised it numerous times and polished it until it shone. Even so, I had a hard time sending it to the agent who'd requested it because I knew it could be better. But send it I did.

    And guess what? The agent was in touch the following day to let me know she wanted to discuss representing me. Four days later I was her client.

    Was the manuscript Rachelle read perfect? No. She told me when she offer representation that I'll need to do one or two revisions before it's ready to submit to editors. I know that when it sells, I'll have to do revisions again. Even after it's in print, I'm sure I'll see things I could have done differently, ways I could have made it better yet.

    A friend once told me perfectionism is overrated. I'm doing my best to remember that. After all, the Lord has the corner on perfection. :)

  13. I heard one author's reply to a question regarding how he knows when one of his book his finished and really like it.

    He said, "I never finish my books... I abandon them."

  14. Chris, That is exactly the way I feel - I have to abandon the book, otherwise I would never stop working on it. To me it's just never done, could always be better, thus my editor has to take it away from me. I've heard that over-editing can take the edge off the writing and I'm beginning to see how that happens personally.
    Love that quote!

  15. Keli, What is it about authors and perfectionism? So many of us struggle that way. I like your wording of being a recovering perfectionist. I think the Lord wants to move us beyond those chains. He's certainly convicted me.

    Love the way you found your way to Rachel. You have a wonderful voice as she's such a topnotch agent! I was so excited when I got my new issue of RWA magazine and YOU were in it!! I had a blonde moment and got out the scissors to cut that page out for you then remembered you have it:)

    Yes, revisions and edits are a big part of publishing. That's been one of the hardest things for me - doing my best and then letting go. Still, it's hard to pick up TFD as I still see things I'd like to change. Same with CML and the galleys which I'm working on now.

    I can hardly wait for more Keli news! Bet this was your best Christmas ever!

  16. Laura, I'm glad to know you're working on the galleys for Courting Morrow Little - that means it is one more step closer to us being able to read it!

    I keep forgetting to come to your blog and leave comments. I subscribe to you thru email, so I always read your posts, but forget to visit the actual blog! Keep up the great work!

  17. Bobbi, What a treat to know you actually read my posts via another route:) Thank you for that! I've often thought I don't know how you do all you do - writing, reviewing, reading, editing, etc. Thank you for taking time to stop by. So glad you want to read Morrow's story! I think you're on my pub's list for a copy:)