Monday, March 19

Is just okay...okay?


I have been on a weight-loss regime for…oh, probably 40-some years. There have been five or six days in my life when I have been completely satisfied with my size, and even then I am bothered by my always-poochy stomach, or my batwing arms, or the way my once-nice legs are now wrinkled. But I’m getting better. The sight of me naked in a mirror is still the stuff nightmares are made of, but in clothes? Not so bad. You know…okay. Complete satisfaction isn’t the goal anymore; being healthy and being able to find clothes I like is the goal. One of the up parts of aging is the discovery that just okay is…well, it’s okay.

There are arguments against that. Lots of people believe if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. They remind us that no one ever remembers who got second place. That nice guys don’t win ballgames even if they do have fun playing.

Quilting is supposed to be a precise art, made up of scant-quarter-inch seams and star points that are perfect and seam intersections that are truly junctures as opposed to jogs in the patchwork road. My quilts are not, but they’re warm and kind of pretty and the grandkids who own them love them.

But what about writing? I’ve become lazier about it. Ten pages used to be a successful day—now I’m thrilled all out of proportion if I write two that I can read without gagging. If I need a day away from the WIP, well, I take one. Or two. Last week, I forgot to blog on my day and I was sorry—Monday is my job, after all—but I didn’t rush around and write something so I could post it late in the day. When a submissions call goes out that is right up my alley, I think, hmm…, and chances are good that’s as far as it goes.

Does this mean I’m ready to stop writing? No, I don’t think so. (Besides, I’m one of those who can’t. Even if I did want to, which I don’t.) More importantly, does this mean I’m ready to settle for “just okay” in what I write? Judging by what I read—or in some cases try to read—I feel safe in saying I wouldn’t be the only one settling.
Oh, and here we are again—it’s another crux. (I just love that word. In all the years I’ve been blogging and writing essays, I’ve come to cruxes in more issues than I can count.) For me, this crux is a whole bundle of things.

· It’s the reason I will probably never self-publish, because honesty compels me to admit that some of my work that hasn’t been visited by a professional editor falls under the auspices of “okay.” Barely. If I have readers, they deserve better than that. Because unlike my quilts, warm and sort of pretty don’t cut it when it comes to stories.

· My work habits are not a viable excuse for mediocrity in that work. It’s just fine that I’m not as productive at 61 as I was 20 or even 10 years ago, but it’s not fine if I use my age as an excuse for half-assed writing and even worse editing of that work. (Don’t look hard at my sentence structure—it’s always been suspect.)

· If I write a bad book, no one will want to read the one after that, providing there is one. While my writing career is spotty at best, I’m proud of what has been published. If I can’t be proud of it, I don’t want it to be published.

· How I look naked is of no concern to anyone; if okay works for the roommate and me, that’s all that’s necessary. How my book looks naked is of concern to anyone who pays good money for it.

Well, all right, that was a pretty small bundle, wasn’t it? And the crux wasn’t too easy to decipher, either. I think I’ve figured out that while most of the things in my life are good as “okay,” writing is not. Because once I decide to share it, it’s not about me anymore. I’m still not sure this makes sense, but what do you think? Are some things just fine as “okay” and some not, or do you think everything should be the best it can be?

13 comments:

  1. Hi Liz,
    You had me at quilting. I used to quilt with my grandmother who made the most perfect tiny stitches. I got up in the middle of the night and caughter ripping out my stitches and replacing them with her tiny stitches. She explained she re-did my grandfather's stitches too. She was definitely one for excellence. Great blog.

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    1. Hi, Morgan. Thanks for coming by. I'll bet your grandmother's work was beautiful. I admire that, but still think I'd rather have the memories of less-than-perfect.

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  2. I always told my kid, do your best, no matter what that is. As I get older, my best has changed. Like you, Liz, I'm less concerned with perfect in some areas of my life and am perfectly happy with okay. Housekeeping falls in this category for me--I haven't scrubbed a corner with a toothbrush in years, but my house is pretty okay--clean bathrooms, tidy kitchen, furniture dusted, etc., however, I don't spend two whole days a week cleaning.

    Writing is another story (no pun intended)--you're right, the quality of our writing can't be just "okay" or that's how readers will see it too, and then they'll stop being your readers. I'm thinking we need to make a sampler for all writers of your line, "Once I decide to share it, it’s not about me anymore."

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    1. Thanks, Nan. Some things do get clearer as we get older, don't they?

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  3. Great topic, Liz. I'm like you - if my quilting stitches are good enough to keep the quilt together...if it looks good-but-not-great and yet it keeps the cold away, that is okay with me. I'm different with my writing - both the non-fiction and the fiction...but my fiction is the place that never seems quite right. I can write a non-fiction article in an afternoon and be fine with it. I can write a book, have it critiqued, edit it and I'll still feel like it could be better. So, I've learned that after the writing/critting/editing rounds, it's time to send it out.

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    1. Been there, done that! There does come a time you have to just let it go. But believe me, Kristi, yours is "quite right." :-)

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  4. My weight? Been fighting it most of my life. Ugh! Writing? It's only recently that I've felt fairly secure about it. My 1st book is with the copy editor now...so excited to see what she does to it. Gulp.

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  5. I'm okay with most things being jsut okay too. But I live with and love a perfectionist so sometimes he drives me batty! My writing has to be way better than okay, but I know I haven't gotten to perfect yet, that's why I'm glad to have my cp's. And BTW, congrats again to D'Ann and Kristi!

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    1. LOL--I have one of those, too, Shawn.

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  6. Great post, Liz. What I need is a way to assess what's right and what's "just okay." The more I write, the less I can tell. If only "reader" were an entity all of a piece! One writer's fan is another's nemesis, I find.
    I have to catch up with your latest!

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    1. Hi, Joan. I know that no matter how hard we try, our opinion of our own work is subjective and so is that of readers. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. I just like how you think, Liz! I do like to see excellence in writing. There is a lot of sub-par writing out there and people are buying it, at least for now.

    How a writer thinks and tells the story is of supreme importance, and I personally think an editor is always going to improve on something. That goes for everybody. So, keep writing and stick with editors, please. I really want to read more of your thoughts, whether in novels or blog posts. It's pretty bad when I'm proud of you, just from knowing you don't live too far from me, and having only met you once. You are my kind of "gal!" So, don't take too many days off. :)

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