Saturday, April 16, 2016

Practicing Walking

My parents always told me a story about what I did as a baby. While other babies they knew were pulling themselves up on the furniture, taking a few practice steps in front of them, showing off day by day as they improved their skills and learned to walk, I didn't.

They wondered whether I was going to walk. EVER. How could I ever move from crawling to walking if I never tried, they wondered. 

What my mother finally realized one night, though, after she'd put me in my crib for the night, is that I WAS walking. I had probably been practicing for weeks. But, for reasons she could not fathom, my little baby self had waited until she was alone for the night. My mother only discovered this because she heard the springs in the crib creaking after she had put me to bed. She swung the door open, catching me in the act of walking around the crib, practicing.

Thanks to for the use of this picture!
The next day, found out, I simply walked in public. No tentative steps. No falls. Just walking. 

I cannot possibly explain why a baby would be self-conscious enough to practice walking before she did so in front of a crowd, and in many ways today I am far less self-conscious than I used to be. 

Except when it comes to writing.

I have several friends who are writers--poets, playwrights, novelists, essayists--and nearly all of them have, at one point or another, urged me to work towards publication. I tell them that I am doing exactly that, only my writing isn't ready for publication yet. 

"That doesn't matter," one poet told me. "It's good enough." 

Good enough. When imagining what I want readers to say about my work, "good enough" is not exactly what I am hoping for. I could self-publish, but I am pretty certain that the weaknesses in my writing would remain in the published work, a glaring reminder that my writing has not fully developed yet. 

Just this week I was reminded of the pitfalls of self-publishing. I bought two books by two different local authors. One, a YA book, was an okay read... but only an okay read. The plot was complete, loose ends tied up at the end, but it was too predictable, too neat, and not well written. I have no problem with simplicity in language, but I detest simplicity in thought, and it suffers from that. 

The other book, also at least partially self-published (I read the publisher's website), is, frankly, brilliant. It's by Paul J. Bennett, and it's called a Fall of Sparrows. Superb book so far, better than many Civil War era books I've read. It's meaningful without being preachy, descriptive without being overbearing... and I could go on gushing. What's sad, frankly, is that it's not a traditionally published book, distributed nationally. It would speak to many readers across the country, not just local readers here in southern Georgia. 

These two books give me a good idea of where I am in this process. My writing has come much farther than the writing in the first book. My characters are more complex, the plot lines and writing far better. However, my writing isn't as good as Bennett's. It just isn't. 

And that means, as much as I hate it, I need to keep practicing. The world is going to just have to wait longer (and I am just going to have to remain patient with myself) until my walking/writing is good enough for public consumption. Other writers might be able to blow readers' socks off, but, even in my mid-forties, I have a slower learning curve. I will just have to keep on keeping on, and hope that I eventually develop into the writer I wish to be. Back to the crib now, for a little practice. Maybe someday you'll see me walk/write for real.
This is me, only I'll be writing. Thanks,!

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