Gifted and Talented
If you have finished a draft of a novel (however messy!), you are Gifted and Talented.
The fact that you are Gifted and Talented has an important implication for revising your story.
GT Learners. First, I’ve talked with Gifted and Talented Teachers about how their students learn. When they learn something new, there’s a stage where they are very uncomfortable. Usually, GTs learn quickly and easily; they catch on. But sometimes the material is more difficult than usual, or more complex, or more puzzling. For some reason, they don’t catch on. They are unsure of what to do next.
At that point, GTs get uncomfortable and since they are rarely uncomfortable with learning, they often bail out. Anger, frustration, fear, impatience–do you experience some of these emotions when you face a revision that just doesn’t seem to be working?
The very fact that writing well is a process of revision is frustrating to a GT. They are used to getting things right the first time around. Maybe the first obstacle is embracing writing as a process.
Once you accept the process, though, you must also accept that facing difficulties in the revision process is normal! But if you’re a GT (and you are!), then it’s doubly frustrating because you so rarely face things that are hard. When I do the Novel Revision retreat, I warn the writers that they may hit a brick wall sometime during the weekend. The process of thinking about revision may start to overwhelm them.
Forewarned is forearmed. I try to head off the problem of frustration by warning that it is inevitable. When revising your story, you will face difficulties. This is normal! Let me say that again: Difficulties are normal. To be expected. Inevitable. A normal part of the process.
You have two choices: face them squarely and deal with them; avoid them and quit. And of course–you can’t quit!
As a GT, you are uniquely qualified to solve difficulties in revising because you do catch on quickly. You know how to locate and use resources that will help. You absorb information from a wide variety of sources. Given a day or so, you could probably tell me 30 ways that others have solved similar problems.
If you have a complete draft of a novel done, you are Gifted and Talented. That’s good news. It might mean you have a lower threshold for frustration, but in the end, it means you’ll make it through the writing process in great shape.
Perseverance or just plain Stubbornness
We’ve heard the stories: Dr. Seuss? first book, To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937) was rejected twenty-eight times. Neil Simon, in Rewrites: A Memoir tells of over twenty drafts needed for his first play.
Most of us would have to agree with Vladimir Nabokov, “I have written–often several times–every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasures.”
Or Dorothy Parker, “I can’t write five words but that I change seven.”
Or John Kenneth Galbraith who jokes, “There are days when the result is so bad that no fewer than five revisions are required. In contrast, when I’m greatly inspired, only four revisions are needed.”
Or Truman Capote, “I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”
We understand that revising means doing it again until it’s right. But psychologically, that means the best trait a writer can have is stubbornness. On days when there is no hope sheer perseverance takes over.
On those days, I highly recommend Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It?s my favorite books on the psychology of making art and goes into much more detail on many more subjects than I can here in five days. There have been days–like when I got that rejection of a novel after two revisions and fourteen months of dealing with an editor–that all I can do is sit at my desk and cry and re-read this book.
And start again.
Perseverance comes in two forms: revising until the story is right and making your art your way over a lifetime. It took Dr. Seuss twenty years after his first book to write The Cat in the Hat. ( 2007 annotated version). It often takes the work of years to hit your stride and produce your best work. We are in this for the long haul and this current book is just one of the waystations. Think career. Get stubborn. Persevere!
How do you deal with those deadly rejections?