At work, Louis is trying to record a voice message on an answering machine.
“Thank you for calling ticketing services at [redacted]. We are open from–”
The line clicks.
The woman training him is smiling. “You paused too long.”
Louis blinks. “Okay,” he says, thinking, Seriously?
Louis tries again. Gets two sentences in before another click.
“Now you’re going too fast.”
There are two more attempts made, both of which are not good enough. One of the final critiques is that Louis is running out of energy.
To which Louis thinks, Yes. Yes, I really, really am. I wonder why.
This, of course, Louis keeps to himself, certain that the sarcasm wouldn’t go over well to at least one person in the room. Also because his frustration is apparent enough that the person training him takes over.
And this after having a friend read “Aixa the Hexcaster” and report that it has some typos.
It’s been a long week.
My friend telling me about those typos was actually the most helpful thing anyone has done for me in ages.
But, regardless, the world snowballed those typos, katamaried them with a bunch of bullshit into a single theme.
Being pressured to be perfect.
A theme bolstered by my managers at work. Sometimes, communication is difficult in my department, so there were a bunch of cases of managers assuming I did things wrong, confronting me for doing things I didn’t do. Individually, these things are all fine. Every day, repeatedly, they get exhausting. Especially when you work your ass off. You start to feel that, “Man, maybe I’ll never do anything right ever again.”
Oddly enough, finding out that there were errors in “Aixa” was genuinely more uplifting than work.
It was also way worse–by far–but I’m grateful for the criticism of my writing. To the extent that I had to willfully stop thanking the friend who told me about the typos.
I’d like to take a quick aside to say that, yes, she genuinely is the best person in the world. Like, literally. And, somewhere, she’s reading this and shaking her head, saying, “I hate you so much,” because she’s embarrassed.
But, whatever, she gave me criticism when I asked for it. That alone makes her the best ever.
The aftermath of that criticism was a bit messy though. I had to write to the editor of Mirror Dance and ask if I could do a quick edit. It took a bit, but she got back to me with a “yes.”
And now, as a man who has always criticized poor edits, I’m taking my time doing an incredibly thorough line edit of “Aixa.” Because I’ve had my bad editing habits made clear, and it’s taught me a bunch of important lessons.
Here is a short list of things I will absolutely never, ever do again:
- Make changes for improved grammar and flow . . . without editing said changes.
- Make additions for clarity . . . without editing said changes.
- Do a rush edit of a piece before publication . . . while making changes and additions for improved grammar, flow, and clarity.
- Give a manuscript a passing grade because “I’ve already edited it 1,000,000 times–it has to be fine.”
No. 1,000,000 times isn’t good enough if the 1,000,001st time has new errors.
Because nothing in my life matters more than writing as well as I possibly can. Nothing matters more than succeeding at this one thing, because it’s just about all I have.
I have to do it right.
And it has to be perfect.
Gonna stick with a short one today, because I have to work on “Aixa” a bit more so I can send it tonight. The weird thing about editing something that’s already in publication: I can’t edit for content. Reading it again is exactly the torture I expected, because I see so many things that are wrong with it.
But alas . . . I’m going to just link it anyway, as always.
And then make myself feel better by outlining short stories that are tighter. Better. I refuse to overhaul “Aixa” because it has to stand as a milestone in my life, but I can get something better published this year. I know it.
But, anyway, thank you for reading this more personal, frantic rant. If anything, I hope it sparked reflection about your own editing process.
My name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was published last year in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out–which means posting here every week, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting updates by email – a new post from me delivered right to your inbox – then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.
Regardless, thank you just for stopping by. And, as always, write well.
3 thoughts on ““It has to be perfect.””
No great work is ever finished; it is simply abandoned.
Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles?
I mean, what you say is valuable and all. However just imagine
if you added some great images or video clips to give your
posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images
and video clips, this site could definitely be one of the
very best in its field. Terrific blog!
Wow. Hey, thank you for the compliments and the comment.
I have thought about adding more pictures, for sure, and I was doing that a bit when I started posting every day a while back, but I fell off with it; I just couldn’t think of pictures to take for most posts. But I think that’s because I wasn’t challenging myself? Because, having read your comment, I’m getting some ideas. So, hey, thank you.
Also, videos are something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I’ve always wanted to wait until I had good resources (a nice camera and a quality mic). At some point, I’ll actually make a YouTube channel for myself, but that’s still a ways away.
Anyway, thanks again!