Tuesday, April 22, 2008

When life hands you lemons . . .

or, in this case snow, try to look on the bright side. Cliche and hackneyed but when it's April 22nd and you had planned on going for a walk in the sandhills nearby to look for crocuses and the maple trees are budding, the geese and ducks are back, let's face it, it's mortal hard to see the positive when there's over a foot of snow on your deck. A deck that, only a week previous, my husband and I had been sitting on, drinking lemonade and enjoying plus 20 weather and sunshine.

Sigh. I was grumbling about the snow to a fellow church-goer on Sunday and she just smiled. "But it's so bright and white and friendly," she chirped. I wanted to hit her with my purse. But then she went on to say that in Holland where she came from, where rain is more common, the dark and dreary landscape is far more depressing than what we were looking on now. "And when the snow melts, which it will, the fields will have plenty of moisture." She underlined that with a bright, cheerful, happy smile.

Okay. I could concede that and I guess, to a point, she was right. Besides, may as well try to be positive about it. Getting grumpy is hard on the ego and, in my current situation, my manuscript. Especially when this is a manuscript that has come back to me for revisions that have been classified as a major overhaul.

When I got the revision letter I had the usual "I've failed my editor" response. I felt as if all my hard work had been in vain - I missed the mark. I go through this each time I get a revision letter. Even after some 22 books, I still look at that my editor's letter through the eyes of a failure. But this time I had some other tools to use, another chirpy voice in my head. A fellow writer of mine spoke at a writer's conference about her attitude toward revision letters. She actually gets excited! She is bubbly, over the top, happy. When I first heard her talk this way my hands tightened on the handles of my purse. But no, this was for real. Then she told me why. A revision letter comes from an editor who is a partner in excellence. A revision letter is a chance to make this manuscript better. And why not get excited about better? Why not see it as a chance to learn, a chance to make this book all that it can be? I've spent a lot of time building this story-world, creating the characters, fleshing out the plot, the conflict, the motivations. Why not make it best, instead of simply good.

I'm not quite at the chirpy stage of reading revision letters, but I am moving toward enthusiasm. Toward seeing the possibilities. Toward gratitude for the extra pair of eyes and the suggestions. I'm eye-ball deep in revisions right now and the work is, at times, a steady slog, but I see a glimmer at the end of the book. The reshaping of this story that will make it the best it can be. The same thing my editor wants.

I'm trying to do the same with the snow. Trying to see the possibilities. It's a struggle, but may as well laugh about it. May as well enjoy it. Even if the geese don't.

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