It will several weeks before my dream working space is up and running. In the meantime there’s 10 days left not only before NaNo begins, but for me to whip a selection of my best poems into shape. In the midst of this all there’s also a bunch of single submissions to be done, many of which won’t cost me anything other than time and effort. It’s getting close to the stage where I need a year to view wipe clean calendar from Amazon to keep track of it all.
Crucially, none of this work is new, and is all being created off the back of existing effort. So, the question I find myself asking with increasing frequency is how much extra does an idea require before it’s good enough to be considered not simply as good, but completed. When is poetry ready to publish? When all is said and done, just how much polish is enough on your work?
The best barometer I have of done is the Places of Poetry collection, all 24 of which are meritorious in my own head. Each one fulfilled the brief set out before I started: personal resonance, intrinsic link to the place being written about, plus a better than good technical standard. In that regard, polish was quite liberally applied to the raw works. It gives me real hope for working with my poems going forward.
Long form’s a bit harder, but reading through my synopsis today for NaNo there was a strong, unerring confidence that not only was my narrative basically sound, it could be established in a far stronger configuration if I swapped around some key pieces of action. As it transpires, the confidence that’s given me today’s helped to get a lot of those plot holes filled. It’s incredible what self belief can do.
Instead of attacking the weekend’s folly with pitchforks and torches, it transpires all that was needed was a bit of polish: re-arrange the narrative flow and BOOM there we are, very much back on track. This has also helped me rearrange the poetry running order too, so that it too can have the appearance of narrative cohesion. Many of these poems were not written to go together but with the right connecting pieces, things can be constructed differently.
I really hope I can finish the poetry to my satisfaction for the weekend, because it will make my next project in December considerably easier to attack. In the end, all of this is a process of building confidence and accepting shortcomings. Everything will always benefit from one more read through and even if you know something’s pretty much done, there’ll always be a typo you missed on that last read-through.
That’s what polish entails too, of course: spelling mistakes, proper grammar, the minutiae of common sense that often is lost when people focus just on their feelings and not the work as a whole. Those things are as important as a workable narrative and poems with personal meaning. Put it all together, and the balance becomes apparent, even at an early stage.
Knowing what’s enough is half your battle won.