Monday, August 06, 2007

It Was Just a Jar of Honey

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

You may remember that last week (July 30) I wrote about an incident with a TSA guard at the airport in … well, I didn’t tell you where because I didn’t want my friends to stone me when I mentioned it was Hawaii.

Regardless of the knots I’ll receive on my head for mentioning that, I need to bring up the airport incident again. Why? Because there’s a good analogy hidden in it—one that’s just waiting to peek out and see the light of day.

Before we went to the airport, I did everything I could think of to prepare for going through security. I read through the list of acceptable container sizes and contents. Then I re-read it. And re-read it. I got rid of some gels and creams. Others went into Ziploc baggies so the security guards could easily see that they were bonafide beauty aides and that they met the standard.

Still, I overlooked something. It was just a small jar of honey, but it wasn’t acceptable to the guards.

Writing is exactly like that. We read and re-read suggestions to improve our craft. We throw out the writing “gels and creams” that don’t meet our needs, and keep the ones that will beautify our work. We worry and stress that what we’ve done is correct and will meet publishing standards.

And then we discover we’ve overlooked something. Perhaps our work has too many adverbs, or a number of passive verbs. Maybe there’s not enough tension and suspense in what we’ve written, or our plot is weak.

Just like being searched at the airport, it’s discouraging and nerve-wracking to have it pointed out that we didn’t get it right and our work has a flaw. But we do grow stronger because of it. We learn from our mistakes, and our writing improves each time we fix a problem.

Despite the inconvenience of being searched at the airport, I will gladly put up with it to insure that the guy in the seat next to me isn’t carrying a block of C-4 to blow up the plane. Being blown up would not make my day.

The same is true with writing. I will gladly put up with having my mistakes pointed out to me by friends because my writing will improve because of it.

The next time you’re tempted to over-look having your work critiqued because it hurts, remember my little jar of honey at the airport. And remind yourself it’s better for your manuscript to be searched at the gate, than to be blown up in mid-air by the publisher.

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What C.L.’s been reading recently:
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King

View C.L.’s other work:
Newspaper Column
Photography Website

2 comments:

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen said...

What a great analogy, and oh, so perfect! I recently had my own "flying & searching" experience, and I couldn't agree more. It is so much better to discover the "bomb" in the beginning.

C. L. Beck said...

Ronda,
I'm glad to hear I'm in good company when it comes to being searched in an airport!:)

Thanks for reading and for commenting.