To Fall and Crash and Break

22 Feb

Before I update you all on Phase Two of Project: Edit, perhaps I should begin with a little story.

I’m the sort of girl who offers to make her sister’s 250 wedding invitations.  The sort of girl who, when the choices of print shop suddenly become print-shop-with-wonky-discoloration versus print-shop-with-insanely-ridiculous-prices, decides to go with neither print shop and opt instead for make-each-invite-and-response-card-with-her-own-two-loving-tender-hands.  I’m that sort of girl.

Fortunately, my sweet husband is the sort of husband who says, “Look here! I can turn the espresso-and-white maps into black-and-white maps, and squeeze eight onto a page.  This will cut costs and eliminate the issues with discoloration — then, we can do all the color copies at print-shop-with-insanely-ridiculous-prices!  Then you’ll only have to make the RSVP cards by hand, and the original price you quoted will stay about the same!”

Bless him.

So — all that to say, I (sometimes) bite off more than is comfortable to chew.  Not that I can’t chew it.  It’s just uncomfortable.  (See also: my withered hand when I finished the RSVP cards. If I had done everything by hand, in one weekend, as was my original insane solution, I’d probably still be in pain. And that was last June.)

This week has been annoying and discouraging and overwhelming.  Note to self, and to everyone who’s up to speed on what I’m working on these days¹: when taking handwritten notes in a spiral notebook, if the plan is to enter them into the computer in an organized fashion, do it in small chunks at the end of each daily session instead of all at once.  The notes themselves aren’t all that intimidating; the system in which I’ve organized them isn’t the problem, either.  The problem is that it’s tedious.  Worth it?  Almost certainly.  Fun?  Certainly not.

I’ve also felt the tendency to compare myself to others this week, in a way that’s not necessarily healthy.  Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading² and while that’s inspiring and all, it’s also a wee bit discouraging.  It’s so easy to pick up a book and forget that it didn’t just magically appear, in polished-and-published form: no.  These things took work.  Just like mine is taking work.  I keep forgetting that this is my first time to edit a novel and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with learning how to do it.


Perhaps now is a good time to mention that thanks to the Olympics, I am in awe of snowboarders.  I spent an entire afternoon watching the girls’ halfpipe competition, marveling at Torah Bright, at Gretchen Bleiler, at Hannah Teter, at how easy they make it look.  Also?  I marveled at how insanely painful it must be to mess up, to fall and crash and break.  

I’ve been airing my snowboarding awe to my husband all week.  On Saturday night, when all my little frustrations about editing surfaced along with my ridiculous snowboarding dreams, he just listened patiently and reminded me of some truth: those snowboarders didn’t just hop on a board, jump into a halfpipe, and proceed to nail their switch backside 720’s³.

No.  They practiced.  A lot.  Like, a lot a lot a lot.  And, even gold medalists and their toughest competitors fall at the Olympics, because they’re giving everything they have.  They don’t play it safe, they take risks that may or may not pay off.

You see where I’m going, yes?  Huge goals require huge risks, lots of practice, lots of patience, and the understanding that sometimes, you just might crash in the snow while you’re trying something amazing.  Oh yeah, and to remember that everyone has to start somewhere and learn along the way.

I’m learning.  This novel is a huge project, overwhelming sometimes, uncomfortable sometimes, but not impossible.  Not impossible at all.

Revision Update, Phase Two | All notes have been entered into pretty little spreadsheets.  Still have more work as far as prioritizing them goes, but on the whole, it’s coming along.

¹If you’re not up to speed, click here and here

²FINALLY finished The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger) and Bright Lights, Big Ass (Jen Lancaster).  Had to read them concurrently so as not to fall into total, time-travel-tragedy-induced despair.

³I looked this up.  According to this NYTimes article, this is the cherry-on-top move from Torah Bright’s gold-medal-winning run; it’s “a perplexing double rotation with a blind landing that flummoxes all her competitors.” (I’m loving the abundance of the letter in that sentence, BTW.)

20 Responses to “To Fall and Crash and Break”

  1. islesam Monday / 22 February 10 at 4:17 pm #

    I should have dove head first into my favorite book after reading The Time Travelers Wife. WHY OH WHY DID I NOT?! Alas.

    You are miles ahead of me, if that makes you feel any better. I still have rewrites & additions to do & I can’t stay motivated to do them. Ugh. Match is my absolute latest I’ve allowed myself to start. Lord help me.

    Your husband sounds wonderful! He’s so right, too. It’s hard to remember all the work that is necessary. Sigh.

    WE CAN DO THIS!!!!! …. eventually. :p

    • owlandsparrow Saturday / 27 February 10 at 2:01 pm #

      I totally should have recommended this to you as you were bawling your eyes out. Sigh. Alas, indeed.

      Yes. We CAN do this! 🙂 Thanks for always being so encouraging. Oh, and thanks for taking the time to type comments on your iPhone! Hope Cairo’s feeling better, by the way.

  2. islesam Monday / 22 February 10 at 4:20 pm #

    Match = March. I guess the iPhone isn’t as perfect as I’d hoped. Whatevs. I’m still doing this in Cairo’s doctors office since they like to take A MILLION YEARS to see patients. Whoop!

  3. Merrilee Monday / 22 February 10 at 5:11 pm #

    Atta girl. Take it all as a learning experience and the knocks won’t seem so bad.

    And I’m with you on the type in – so tedious!

    • owlandsparrow Saturday / 27 February 10 at 2:04 pm #

      The type-in: blech. It’s already paying off, though, so that’s nice. Next time, I’ll definitely type as I go, instead of all at once. Thanks, as always, for your support. It’s hard to remember I’m still learning sometimes, but, well, I am. 🙂

  4. jenniferneri Monday / 22 February 10 at 6:38 pm #

    I hand made my sister’s wedding inviatioans, and then proceeded to make my own. Obviously I am a slow learner…

    Good luck with it all! I also find it daunting.

    • owlandsparrow Saturday / 27 February 10 at 2:08 pm #

      From reading these comments, I’m so surprised how many people made their invitations by hand, too! I made the ones for my own wedding, too, but they were much easier. I used the same exact format (different design, but same format) for my sister’s – the problem was, the printer I used had aged by a couple years and wasn’t as reliable with the colors. The invitations were khaki-colored with white letters, and for some reason, there were odd stripes of purple and green when I printed them. Weird.

      Anyway. I’d do it again, but would quote a higher price next time. I have no more sisters, so I wouldn’t feel too bad about that.

  5. jenniferneri Monday / 22 February 10 at 6:39 pm #

    Oh – and what did you think of Time Traveler’s Wife then?

    • owlandsparrow Saturday / 27 February 10 at 2:12 pm #

      I loved it, actually. It was wicked sad and depressing at parts, but artfully constructed. I felt like I knew the characters well, and really liked Audrey Niffenegger’s voice. Also, from a structural perspective, it was fascinating! I cannot fathom the work it took to put that story in order, and to keep track of who knew what, and when. Her creativity and ability to come up with, and communicate, this story is what turned this book from tragically depressing into dang inspiring, for me.

      Melissa (islesam, in the comments above), on the other hand, thinks I’m a masochist for even considering reading it a second time.

  6. Linda Monday / 22 February 10 at 6:40 pm #

    I so needed this reminder today, Kayla. Impatience overwhelms me. And now, I have the next book whispering in my ear, so I feel even more rushed to get done editing this one.

    I learned on my first edit not to wait too long before updating my manuscript. On this round, I record one chapter at a time, listen to it and mark changes, and then enter them in the file.

    • owlandsparrow Saturday / 27 February 10 at 2:16 pm #

      Linda, sorry I’m just now responding, but I’m so glad this was a timely read for you. I’m learning to have patience in a lot of areas of life right now, not just with writing, so I’m right there with you.

      One thing I’ve miraculously been able to have patience with? LOST. I’ve heard complaints that they’re not answering things quickly enough, but, well, I’m still LOVING the mystery. 😉 (PS: I read your blog post about LOST, and haven’t commented yet because I’m still thinking about an answer.)

  7. J.C Monday / 22 February 10 at 8:23 pm #

    *hugs* it’s all about learning, and trying, and throwing ourselves into it when we can. You will get there! And think how good it will feel next time you write a novel and the process is just that much easier for all the learning you’ve done this time.

    Made my wedding invites by hand as well, so I can imagine the suffering, though it wasn’t 250 guests in my case lol

    • owlandsparrow Saturday / 27 February 10 at 2:20 pm #

      Aw, thanks for the hugs! I keep reminding myself of that, that next time (and the time after that) will be easier because I’ll have a system down (along with more experience). Of course, life is funny, and just when you think you have things figured out, you have to figure something else out. 😉 At any rate, I’ll have more experience.

      Yeah, my sister’s wedding was twice the size of ours. She had the reception out at my parents’ ranch, so she could fit all those people. Like I told Jennifer Neri, I was so surprised at how many of the commenters here made their own invites!

  8. Laura Best Tuesday / 23 February 10 at 6:11 am #

    You have a great attitude toward your editing. As writers we do need to have patience and yes, it does take time for us to perfect our words. And it’s definitely a LOT of work. Thankfully writers are stubborn and refuse to give up easily.

    • owlandsparrow Saturday / 27 February 10 at 2:21 pm #

      Good point – writers are stubborn and refuse to give up easily! Looking at the finished product on the shelf, it’s sometimes hard to remember how much work went into it, but surely every great novel took a lot of time and work and patience to complete. Thanks, as always, for your sweet encouragement! 🙂

  9. Rowenna Tuesday / 23 February 10 at 5:29 pm #

    Ugh, I did the wedding invitation thing. Made my own…then my friend and sister-in-law wanted me to make theirs. It was an intense couple of months (and they both used bright pink, probably my least favorite color).

    Keep up the incredible attitude toward revising–it’s such a pain, but diving in with enthusiasm is more than half the battle!

    • owlandsparrow Saturday / 27 February 10 at 2:25 pm #

      Wow, bright pink…I don’t mind it so much, but if it tells you anything, my bridesmaids wore black. (Not that it was depressing; it was an outdoor wedding, so there was a ton of green, and their flowers were blue with green stems. Black just seemed clean and sophisticated to me.)

      You did all three sets of invitations within the same few months?!?! Whoa. Talk about intense, like you said. (Even if I misunderstood, and they happened at separate times, that’s still intense.)

  10. Kathleen Wall Wednesday / 24 February 10 at 1:43 pm #

    I love The Time Traveller’s Wife–it’s one of my favorite books EVER. I’ve always wondered in what order Niffenegger wrote it–chronological and then rearranged it? Or did she have an idea in her head beforehand about the ways she would develop character and plot in a nonlinear way? However she did it, it must have been a complex process. It makes me so glad that my characcters don’t jump all around in time. Did you like it?

    What a great point that we learn with practice. I know just what you are saying about reading a published writer and despairing about how far I have to go. But admit it–don’t you sometimes read a published author and say, “I write better than THAT!” 🙂

    • owlandsparrow Saturday / 27 February 10 at 2:30 pm #

      I’ve wondered that, too, Kathleen! Like I wrote to Jennifer Neri, the structure of it just fascinates me, and I am amazed at her creativity with that complex process. I’m glad my characters don’t jump around, either, though it does inspire me to think outside the box and push myself to be more creative. (I did like it, by the way, in case you couldn’t tell).

      Admittedly, I have had that thought before (“I can write better than THAT!”), followed quickly by, “I hope nobody ever says that about anything I write!” haha Just like with most things, I suppose there’s always going to be someone better than me and someone who’s not. The key to staying sane, I guess, is just focusing on what I do, and doing it as well as I can. (Sometimes easier said than done.) 🙂


  1. Prioritizing, Yo. « Owl and Sparrow - Friday / 26 February 10

    […] of my hard work?  Is totally paying off so far.  Earlier in the week, I mentioned how tedious last week’s work was, what with all the data entry and whatnot; now, […]

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