by Jane Kirkpatrick
Today I wrote The End of my latest novel. Of course it’s not really the end but rather the next stage in the production of a book. When I’m reading from the book at a signing, I’m still editing wondering to myself “why didn’t I use a different word there?” Or I skip a line because it didn’t really add anything, or so I thought a year after I wrote The End.
It’s still a good time to celebrate though. Like a midwife, one can’t wait until the end of labor before dancing. A midwife has to be present from the beginning helping the mother-to-be to enjoy and take note of every small success along the way. It’s how we celebrate our friend’s gains as well. We don’t wait until they graduate from college to say “Great job!” We high-five them at achieving that B+ or surviving finals week. Small business owners can’t wait (or might not want to) until they’ve reached the pinnacle of their dream before paying homage to their present successes: meeting a new customer, having enough business demand to expand, participating in a community gathering supporting the local SMART program or cleaning up the beach day. Each of these are moments worthy of celebrating and they all have a stage of “The End.”
Personally, I have a hard time celebrating those steps along the way. My dad told a story of a hot August in Wisconsin in the 1920s when he and his brothers brought in seventeen loads of loose hay. At supper, they spread themselves around the harvest table and one brother said, “Ma. We brought in seventeen loads today!” He expected a “Good job” or a “well done!” Instead as his mother fed her five sons she said, “If you’d tried a little harder you could have brought in eighteen.”
That story haunts me when I diminish my moments of completion. I frequently tell writing students that perfection doesn’t mean “without errors.” It means “complete.” That I met a deadline ought to be complete enough. Yes, the manuscript will come back with suggestions for changes including structural improvements and ideas to make the story stronger. But taking a few moments to shout “Yippee!” for this stop along the way is worthy effort. Yes, if I’d tried a little harder I might have finished it sooner but for today, I’m happy to say I’ve written The End to my work in progress.
Jane Kirkpatrick is the author of 25 books including the New York Times bestselling novella collection A Log Cabin Christmas, reissued by Barbour, September 1, 2013. She’s also the author of Emma of Aurora, her new Three in One re-release. Visit Jane at www.jkbooks.com or www.facebook.com/Theauthorjanekirkpatrick.