Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Polish your manuscript


It is the superfluous things for which men sweat.
Seneca (c. 5 BC-AD c. 65), Roman writer


A friend of mine unintentionally changed my attitude toward revisions. He restores antique cars and starts each project with barely more than a chassis and some rusted sheet metal. With utmost care, he painstakingly replaces every single part until his recreation is better than the shiny piece of the American dream that was driven off the showroom. When he finishes, we go on a ride and I can tell he enjoys the envious looks and honks from other car enthusiasts.

After these inaugural rides, I always assumed the cars were finished, but every time I visited, he would be in the garage replacing this piece or that piece. If he wasn't installing a newly acquired part, he would be polishing nooks and crannies that no one in a standing position would ever see. Sometimes I'd come over to find that he had painted the car a different color or replaced perfectly good upholstery.

One day I asked him if he ever tired of constantly changing an already beautiful car.

"Hell no," he said. "Building the car is work. This is the fun part."

"The fun part?"

"Whenever I start a new project car, I look forward to the day when the basic restoration is done so I can perfect it . My joy is in making it flawless. I fix the little details so people love to spend time with my creation."

"But you keep working on it. How do you know when it's perfect?"

"One day I'll walk all around it, open the doors, lift the hood, examine the truck and there won't be any more changes I want to make." He shrugged. "Then I sell it and start all over again."

Now I look forward to completing a manuscript so I can tighten and polish it until there are no more changes I want to make. Then I sell it and start all over again.

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