Thursday, February 19, 2009

Striving for Perfection

Over the past few months, I’ve kept an eye on Love Inspired author Missy Tippens. No, I wasn’t lurking on her Facebook status updates, she was fully aware of my interest and in fact encouraged it. You see, Missy was on a deadline to complete another book and I volunteered to nag—um—encourage her along the way. Not that she needed it, but I was curious how a real author, mother of 3, pastor's wife, teacher and small business owner allotted her time to ensure she made her deadline.

Back in Nov, Missy stated that she needed to write so many words per day to have her mss complete by the deadline of Feb 14th. As the weeks progressed, especially with the holidays, Missy adjusted her daily word count to ensure she still made the deadline. A few weeks ago, Missy announced she had finished the book which left time for revisions. Then, on Feb 9th, she posted, ‘I'm reading through it right now for about the 3rd time. Next, I'm going to go through my critique partner's feedback, and then one last run-though for consistency. It's due Friday. I had wanted to mail it tomorrow but will probably end up overnighting it. It's so hard to let it go, because I want to change something every time I read it.’

Can I ever relate! I have a tendency to tweak my writing until the deadline looms then rush to get it out.

On Feb 12, Missy posted, ‘I finished my manuscript and mailed it off today!!!! What a relief. It'll be released from Steeple Hill Love Inspired in November 2009 and titled A Forever Christmas. I'm so excited to have typed The End! (Of course, I actually typed The End a couple of weeks ago but have been revising and adding to it.)’

That got me wondering so I said to Missy, ‘I usually cut it close because I'm too busy tweaking and don't want to send it until I absolutely have to. Out of curiosity, are you the same? Was this a normal progression for you?’

To which she answered, ‘My goal in life is to turn in something early. So far, I haven't met it! I'm the same as you. I just can't seem to get to the point where I feel comfortable stopping on a manuscript. There's always something else I want to change. So I seem to work up til the deadline...’

When I was in the military, I won a coffee mug with these words emblazoned on the side, ‘Parkinson’s Law: Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’. We all laughed at it once we figured out what it meant. Our Sgt didn’t laugh but that’s another story.

C. Northcote Parkinson first published his article ‘Parkinson's Law’ in The Economist in Nov 1955 and then went on to write an entire book on the subject. The subject, of course, is time management which is exactly why I was keeping my eye on Missy. Well, that's not exactly true because I started watching as a friend who was ready to step in and offer encouragement if she seemed to be lagging. But, I was very interested to see how she managed her time. And she did it very effectively by getting her manuscript in on time under the deadline even with all the other life issues she had to deal with. She also proved Parkinson’s Law by taking almost all of her alloted time to complete her mss.

Like I told Missy, I do the same thing. There have even been a couple instances where I finished my writing weeks ahead of time and yet I set it aside and waited for the final few days before checking, tweaking and submitting it.

Why? I know we should put our writing aside for a few days and then look at it ‘with fresh eyes’. But, why do I have this need to wait until the very last minute to actually send it out? I watched my adult daughter pack up and move far away from home without feeling the need to change her hair or clothes before she moved into the adult world. She was ready to go and she went. Why can’t I let my words go with the same aplomb?

Is it because there are so many words out there I'm striving for perfection? Can writing ever be perfect? Or does this show a lack of self-confidence in my craft?

How about you? Do you use all the time you’ve been given for a task? If you finish early, do you still wait until the last minute to submit it? Or do you send it out and then move on to the next task?


Missy Tippens said...

Anita Mae, I love how you campared it to letting your daughter leave home! Because I stories are our babies--especially those first ones. :)

Great post! It did help me knowing you would be checking in, "nagging" me. :) And like you said, I had that daily word count to reach, which was the first time I'd done that. I really worked well that way and will do it again. Count the days til deadline, then divide by how many words I need to write. That way I don't ever panic, because I know it's doable. At least I hope I don't even get to the point where I have to write 5k every day! LOL

Thanks for sharing about Parkinson's Law! So true.

Karen said...

Good Morning Anita Mae,
I loved the part where you compared submitting to watching your daughter leave home!

I have yet to submit anything to anywhere but I am getting close. I will say this, to me, sending something in a day before it's due is getting it in early. That's probably not a good thing.

Suse said...

Hey Anita, great post. I'm the kind of person who can't wait to get something off my desk or a project done. I might be the opposite of you and probably don't make my writing as perfect as it should be. But I really hate having things hanging over my head or messing up my desk. (My coworkers say that I'm quite anal that way.) A messy desk, sewing table or kitchen counter makes me really cranky, so I need to get things done - the sooner ahead of the deadline the better. And if I can do that, then I can start on the next project.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Missy, I'm really glad you like the post. It did occur to me at one point that hanging onto our 'babies' could be misconstrued as procrastination but we know that's not it at all.

I thoroughly enjoyed keeping tabs on you and you always sounded so 'with it' it seemed like you were a pro at writing your ms's this way.

Maybe we can get you to guest blog about your road to pub'n experiences when either of your next books come out?

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karen, I'm glad you and Missy like the daughter analogy. The thing is - I love my kids very much and yet why don't I fret about them as much as my writing? It must be this 'free will' thing that God has endowed upon us, eh? Since my writing can't think, I have to stand by and protect it until it reaches someone who can love it?

So, a day before it's due is early for you? Sounds good in my book. Better than a few hours, anyway. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Karen, I loved how you said a day before it's due is early! :) I'll shoot for that next time. (So far, I think everything I've sent has arrived on the deadline day.)

Good luck on getting your first submission sent in! It's a scary thing, but so exciting.

Missy Tippens said...

Suse, I wish I could turn you loose on all my piles of stuff! Maybe you could get me organized. :)


Missy Tippens said...

I'd love to guest blog, Anita Mae! I have quite a long journey to publication.

My next book is out in June. Just give me a date, and I'll be here!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Suse - is that what anal means? I keep hearing the word - doesn't sound like me at all.

I actually envy you the ability to do and be done with. When I was in the CAF, my Sgt was always ticked because my desk had 'To Do' piles with the biggest as the 'Pending' file where I put anything I didn't want to deal with at the moment. But I have to admit - attempting to rewrite the commcen constitution was not something I could be enthused about. At least not when Top Secret messages and Intel reports about major world events where spewing out of a machine just a few feet away.

Anita Mae Draper said...

That's fantastic, Missy, thanks.

Hey Chicks - who's scheduling June? We got a 'hot' one! LOL

Karen - that's fantastic that you're almost ready to release your baby. Let us know when and we'll have a 'coming out' party... or would that be a 'sending off' party? :)

Karen said...

Anita Mae are you trying to give me a heart attack. Somebody pass me some benzodiazepine.

Suse said...

Hi All, I guess I should have clarified that I LIKE to be organized and get things off my desk ASAP; however, I seem to have lost control of my time (especially at work), so things don't always get done when I'd like or start new projects when I finally do get things out of the way. I guess I still do meet my deadlines though and usually ahead of schedule.

Missy, I'm afraid your piles of stuff would have to come after my piles of stuff. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Karen, I'm so sheltered I had to go and look your benzo... word up. LOL

Okay, now I got it. But, don't you worry -- when it comes time to set your baby free, the Chicks'll be there to hold your hand as well as the rest of the Sask Rom Writers, one of which is a nurse, so we've got you covered. :)

Anita Mae Draper said...

Suse, be careful what you promise...

(Anita Mae rubs her jaw...)

Missy - did you ever get that 1700 email backlog cleared up? LOL That sounds horrendous, but I think those were mostly msgs that you'd read but didn't want to dispose of, right?

Maybe we should let Suse shadow you for awhile. :)

Janet C. said...

Great post, Anita. And congratulations to Missy - not only for getting the MS out on time, but also for the proposed pub date.

When I was in university I talked to my mom every Sunday (I still talk to her every Sunday - and now also on a Wed. night, but it's on my dime now). One Sunday I told her I couldn't talk - I had an assignment due the next day and, as usual, I hadn't finished (don't tell my mom, but I hadn't started it either). She tutted, as is her way, and told me about a program on TV she had watched. Being the concerned parent that she was/is, she listened carefully and determined where her three children landed on the scale of "Doers". I, the middle child - only girl - was clearly a "Cliffhanger". And then she told me that I had been like that my entire life, but she had every confidence that my deadline would be met (and it was).

So - my psyce has not changed. I'm still a cliffhanger. Blog post tomorrow - not a clue as to what I'm writing. I thrive on deadline. But I also know my limits. If I had a manuscript due on Feb. 14th - I would make sure that my last minutes were spent perfecting, not writing the darn thing.

K - rambling comment over. It's interesting to hear about everyone's writing habits. And now I'm off to read about Psyche and Eros (having found the legend when I googled for spelling purposes).


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet - I like that! I guess I'm a cliffhanger, too. Sounds kind of dangerous, though. (This from the woman who joined the CAF at 17 because she wanted adventure.)

You don't know what you're blogging about tomorrow? How do you do it? Your posts always seem so well-thought out.

Kudos to your mom. She sounds like a fantastic supporter.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Karen! And Suse, I hate that you won't come to my house and help me. :)

Thanks, Karen! I was relieved to get the book finished. And I had worked about 2 weeks in for revising, but I still wanted more! I think next time I'll leave myself a month to revise.

Anita Mae, you don't want to see my email box at this point after having a deadline. It's over 3000 now. And so much of it is junk or backed up email loops I'll never read. I need to spend a day emptying it out.

Missy Tippens said...

That was supposed to say thank, Janet, not Karen. Sorry!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Anita, I can definitely relate. I tend to tweak and fiddle with things until the very last minute -- if I care about it. Essays I just have to do? I can't reread them more than so many times. However I really liked the last one I turned in, and worked on it to the last second. Then the laptop went loopy on me and I fought for a few hours with it. When I finally got back online to send the essay off, I was in such a rush to get it out before any more problems arose, I nearly sent it off without a title.

Over-attentive still fails from time to time :) Luckily I caught that issue before I hit send.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hayley - yeah, isn't that a rush? When you think you have a couple hrs to spare and then you lose the connection? And you're scrambling? And you're pulling your hair out? And there's nothing you can do but wait? And it's out of your control? Argh!!!

There's certainly something to be said for sending it out early.

But think of all the excitement we'd miss out on! :)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
I think I fall on the "anal" side of this debate. If I have a deadline looming I'll work my butt off to finish as far ahead of it as humanly possible. Right now I have blog posts written to the middle of March and I'm starting to panic a little because I'd like to be ahead even more.

I was telling Janet it seems I only respond to deadlines that someone else makes for me. I'm not nearly as good at meeting deadlines I set for myself. So Janet set me a deadline to have my story to her by Wednesday so she could critique it. Her plan worked. I sent it to her on Monday!


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Jana - that's too funny because I was working on Charlene Sand's post for this Sat and I saw that you already had 2 posts in there waiting. Wow!

You remind me of the time I had to jump (not dive) off the low tower in the base pool. It was part of an exercise and I remember standing up there and all the rest of my course were waiting on the tiles below. I kept walking to the end, then backing up. I just couldn't do it. The rec tech told me to get down. I was worried I'd failed the test so I asked if he could send someone up to push me off. I swear half a dozen guys jumped up but only one started running up the steps. Just the thought of him pushing me off was enough for me to jump before he was even half way up. Yup, I passed.

Sometimes we just need someone else to give us that extra push, eh.

Good to see Janet's keeping you on your toes. Or should that be fingertips. :)