No, really, I need to ask the question: just how much effort into a piece is ‘enough’?
To my right, in a pile, is a bunch of poems being edited. When I was writing End of the Fear and only my own standards needed to be fulfilled, editing seemed considerably less stressful. Was that because of the work being easier to create, or the process not being dictated by what other people would think, I wonder? Is there too much general worry over the end quality of my output?
More and more, the answer to this question is YES.
I’ve read pages of advice over how to make my work shine, on the inner voice that needs to be nurtured, on umpteen differing styles and approaches, and yet none of this is able to assuage that creeping, terrifying sense that however had you edit, it simply won’t be enough. Impostor Syndrome’s in an increasing list of external factors that weigh down my output, and needs to be dealt with alongside everything else.
Releasing myself from the tyranny of validation certainly helps make the poetry flow, but then how much editing is enough to produce something I think is worthwhile? It’s the classic ‘how long is a piece of string’ argument, I suppose: if I was being taught and the teacher covered my work in corrections, would that be what was needed? If the voice is strong enough, and there’s enough confidence in the finished product, that should be enough.
Increasingly however, as stuff is rejected, that’s not the case. You’re forced into a situation where there is no real sense of what is right or wrong, and you have to hope that what is on the page is enough. If you’re not writing in the style a random person decides is what they’re looking for, what can you do? In the end, there is very little to do but just keep working and hoping that eventually your style will intersect with someone else’s interest.
Unless of course there’s some magic that I’m missing along the way…
I’ll be back to poetry next week: for now, it’s time to start gearing up for my trip to Leeds…