"The show doesn't go on because it's ready; it goes on because it's 11:30."
This is something Lorne has often said about Saturday Night Live, but I think it's a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go." --Tina Fey
Thank you, Tina Fey. Thank you, Lorne Michaels. I so, SO needed this right now.
I've been reading Tina's excellent Bossypants and although it centers on lessons in the workplace, that sneaky Ms. Fey is really handing out tiny pearls about life in general. There's a lot of profound stuff buried in her stories about peeing in cups around the office and Kotex commercial parodies.
This is a lesson I particularly need to learn. See, there's a funny thing that happens once you snag an agent and you're out on submission - you find yourself in the midst of crippling self-doubt.
You would think it would be the other way, right? Well, it isn't like that for me, and the other writers I've spoken to have all said it wasn't like that for them either. Instead of this burst of confidence, you are suddenly very, very afraid that your writing isn't good enough.
Personally, mine comes in the form of a constant inner monologue that starts in the morning and doesn't let up until I'm too exhausted to listen at night. These snotty, nasal voices that sound slightly like my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Rucker, say things like, "That agent of yours is going to figure out what a no-talent ass clown you are when he reads your WIP" or "Of course your book isn't selling. Who would read such drivel? It's nowhere near the quality of TWILIGHT."
In the interest of being completely honest like I promised, I will admit to you: One, I've stopped reading YA for now because everything makes me feel A) inadequate, B) jealous, or C) ragey and stabby. Two, I have found it increasingly hard to share my WIP with my friends and handing it over to my agent felt like death from embarrassment and shame, from which I was resurrected only to die all over again every day he's taking to read it. (Ken, if you're reading this, I swear to you I am a completely calm, SANE professional. Well, sane anyway.)
This last little revelation is the kicker, and the one I need this lesson for. I need to just let it go. I've always known that my writing is imperfect but now it seems like I'm truly ashamed of that. Before submission it was excusable, natural - but during submission it's inexcusable. It's not natural. You are on submission, dammit. Your book was good enough to get this far. Anything less than that is embarrassing and omg, I simply cannot let someone see my Shitty First Draft.
But it's 11:30. I've done all I can at this stage: I've improved all my jokes, put an arch in the arcs, made the angst angstier. It's time for the show to go on. I need to make it better so that I CAN be happy with it. The only way to do that is to get feedback. And the only way to get feedback is to send it out and let it go. To, in a way, commit to the imperfection. Or at least get over it.
So, live from New York...it's Saturday night! If you're one of my readers, you'll be getting more ALIBI soon, warts and all. I'll be behind the camera, watching you read through it, cringing every time a joke bombs or the audience doesn't clap, but I'm letting it go.