The Writer's Whip
The name Parfitt means perfect. It is at this point that I confess that I was not born ‘Parfitt’ but acquired the name when I married Ian. Those of you who read my Inspirer in April, will remember how I told you that I discovered how it was my ability to not be perfect all the time that had made me resilient. And so the breakfast dishes linger by the sink til supper time, I often find I have worn my jumper inside out all day long and my desk (and office floor) look like the paper monster has exploded, as a constant reminder that I am not perfect.
However, when I am responsible for someone else (like, say, my children), or my clients’ books, my stomach somersaults in fear lest something for which I am responsible turns out to have a mistake in it. My acquired name has rubbed off on me, you see and, contrary to my natural Mrs Messy style, I have become a perfectionist. I simply cannot bear to find a single mistake in anything I do. Not one.
Yet, it has now been discovered that my recently published novel (Sunshine Soup for those who have been asleep the last three months and officially out two days ago) has a few mistakes in it. I feel sick as I type these words. I simply cannot bear it. That 10 words or so out of 102,000 are not quite les bons mots, is crushing. Despite at least four different proof readers. Despite reading it a gazillion times myself. Despite, despite, despite. And so I beat myself up, as you probably beat yourself up when you too make a mistake.
In the marvellous film All About My Mother, Esteban quotes Truman Capote with the words:
“When God hands you a gift, he also hands you a whip; and the whip is intended for self-flagellation solely.”
That’s how artists are. We cannot accept that actually we may be okay at what we do and so we constantly find fault with ourselves, shrug off compliments and seek to perfect our craft.
It is well known that writers suffer from the imposter syndrome. Every time a book is published, they avert their eyes from the reviews in case they get found out. One bad review does not make you a rubbish writer – not if you also receive 99 glowing ones. Yet we dwell on the one negative comment and seriously wonder whether that reviewer was actually right and the others were deluded or ‘just being nice’.
A year or so ago, Jonathan Franzen’s novel, Freedom, went to press with about 50 mistakes in it apparently. Some folk never even noticed. The mistakes were fixed and everyone forgot about it. Some readers lucky enough to own an early version realised they could be in possession of a collector’s item one day.
And while I whine, and place the back of my hand against my brow, bemoaning my own inadequacies, my readers tell me they have loved the story and the mistakes did not matter. But do I believe them? A bit.
The fact is that the book is 99.9% perfectly fine.
By the time you read this all the mistakes in my novel will have been corrected. If you want to make sure you get a copy of the collector’s edition, then you had better order yours this week. Because, you see, by the time of my blog tour (that I have postponed to 17 October because I could not bear to start the PR until Amazon had a perfect version) it will be too late.
Is it okay not to be perfect? Possibly. It shows I’m human, right? Now, excuse me a moment while I go and fetch my whip.
All the latest news from the team at Summertime Publishing