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Another Writer’s Lament

When the artistic director of the company I danced with for several seasons was displeased with how we were performing her choreography, she would scream at us across the studio, “Don’t chisel away at my sculpture!” Needless to say, she took herself and her work very seriously.

While I admired her talent, I never wanted to be like her and take my creations quite that seriously. And even as a young dancer, I knew that her creative work could use a bit of chiseling here and there.

That’s true for all of us who make work. I’m convinced that one of the biggest benefits of earning my MFA was getting a ton of experience in getting critiqued. We writers are much better at editing one another’s work than recognizing the flaws in our own. My teachers and critique partners helped make my writing so much better.

Still, when it comes to critical feedback, I have to admit there are those days when discouragement sets in. I hit one of those last Friday when the latest round of editorial notes arrived in my inbox. Yes, those last revisions I’d done were “excellent,” but you know, there are all of these other problems that need fixing. Great swaths of the manuscript were deemed ready for the chopping block, including some of my favorite parts.

My editor is excellent. We both want the same thing, which is the best possible book. Of course, I will do my damnedest to revise this thing (again). But there’s this tiny voice inside me that feels like piping up, “Do you have to chisel away at my sculpture quite that much?”

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