So, I’ve begun my final semester of grad school. I read this semester’s course requirement again tonight. It goes, “By the end of this course the student should have a manuscript of prose polished to a level of professional quality to be suitable for submission to agents and editors.” Sigh…..
Just a week ago I was reveling in my dream team of faculty for this last charge unto the breach. I realized some important factors tonight. The two people who will read my manuscript and deem me worthy, or not, of graduating are Jessica Anthony and Craig Childs. I am writing a book about a loner guy with health issues who yearns for and fears human contact. It is intended to be poignant and amusing. I think the author of The Convalescent already nailed that. I will have Jess Anthony evaluating my narration of the human condition….fuck. Nature is so omnipresent as to be almost a character in my book. I will have Craig Childs evaluating my descriptions of the natural world…..fuck.
I divide books I love into two categories: those that make me want to write and those that make me feel so unworthy that I should never write again. I can count the books and authors of the latter group on one hand. Fortunately, Jess and Craig are not Saul Bellow. They are, however, high on the first list. I feel like a second grader saying, “Look! Here’s my stick figure imitation of what you do. Can I have a cupcake now?”…..or a graduate degree.
The Beautiful Sunny Woman read the latest version of my manuscript front to back last week. She gave me a patronizing smile and assured me parts of it are good. I think she still wants the character based on her to be a crack whore or something. She patted me on the head and told me to go play with my little words. I exaggerate slightly. I think her exact words were, “After page eighty it doesn’t suck.”
There are essentially two types of writers in the world. They are variously described as putter inners and taker outers or verbal vomiters and diamond polishers. I am a polisher. Even if they’re turds, I’m still polishing them. The problem with being a polisher is taking the sharp ginzu knife of revision to the words one worked so hard to put on the page. I love every one of those words. Matt Bondurant, my mentor last semester, advised me to love my work less. Good advice. He’s probably a vomiter.
So, I have a few weeks before I am to hand over the first third of my book to her eminence, Ms. Anthony. I already know it is the shittiest part of my book. I need to make it “polished” and of “professional quality”, and I’m presenting it to someone who published a breathtaking novel pondering the same human condition and our place in the world that my book explores. Later, I’ll offer up seventy three descriptions of a tree to a guy who has written nine books describing the world around us. “But here I say the tree is ‘tall’ with a slight drawl on the ‘a’. See how that is unique and riveting?”
I got this…..I hope.