Currently I am revising a manuscript for the fourth time. I mean, fourth as in major revisions. I’m not counting all the other revisions I do in the course of hammering out a story.
But this time each revision has been a massive overhaul. A rethinking of the plot, structure, voice, motivations, EVERYTHING. The only things that haven’t changed are the main characters and their names. And that’s not to say they won’t.
And this is revision between me and the book and me and my agent. This is revision just to get it to the point where an editor will read it.
Thus have things changed since I started writing full-time as a profession. And let me tell you, I don’t know if my first books would have been published today because it is tough out there.
And I have to ask myself if I am equal to the demands. And if I can be courageous.
I just watched the documentary movie “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”. I love sushi but Jiro would scoff at me because I am a vegetarian and I don’t eat fish. I do eat avocado rolls but I turn my nose up at any roll with cream cheese and whatever the heck pizza sushi is, but still–no fish with my rice.
However if I was ever lucky enough to eat at his restaurant in Tokyo I would eat everything he put before me, except for the octopus because I am convinced of their high intelligence, and perhaps the eel because I’ve had eel and I don’t like it. But the rest of the food he serves looks like sheer perfection and an experience worth giving up on 38 years of vegetarianism for.
The other reason I would eat anything (well almost anything) Jiro served me is the man himself.
He was asked what he think elevates him above other chefs. And he said passion, commitment, hard work, impatience. And he said he NEVER complains about his job.
I complain plenty. But usually just to other writers or my family. I don’t complain to my agent (if I can help it) or in public too much. But even so, I wonder if the work can hear me, and I wonder if I’ve hurt its feelings. And I am sorry because even on those days when nothing goes down on the page but words that don’t fit together well, it’s not the work’s fault. It’s my fault. It’s not even my fault. It’s just one of the days. And if I keep at it, slowly I find the right words again, and so it unfolds.
Jiro (in the movie) is 85 years old and has been making sushi since he was 9 or something. And he loves his work.
I love my work too. I just need to remind myself of it sometimes. But not today, because today the words came and they were the right ones.
And that transforms everything.