Should auld acquaintance be forgot

January 5, 2009

Now that I’ve finished running the yearly gauntlet that is the holiday season, I can return my mind to more personally fulfilling pursuits, such as playing Fallout 3 on my PS3 until my fingers permanently curl into arthritic talons. But of course that’s not all I plan to do this year; I also have Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS.

I kid, I kid. Sort of. As delightful as it may be to explore virtual worlds, a wannabe writer like myself is never content to be a mere Odysseus, sailing the salty literary seas that, while uncharted, are bounded by coastlines formed by forces beyond my control. No, better to dip my hands into the primordial soup and mold my own lands and seas as I see fit, then invite other hardy voyagers to discover the wonders I have crafted. If that sounds lofty, it is because I am a megalomaniac.

I already have several soups in several pots, simmering away, waiting for me to stir them and add more ingredients. Unfortunately, there is always the temptation to pour them down the drain and start over, determined to do a better job with the newest recipe. At what point does one give up on fixing something that is too salty or overcooked or heavy on the butter? What qualifies a piece of writing as unsalvageable?

That question doesn’t have an easy answer. It may not even have an answer at all. I suspect that one could come up with some sort of costs/benefits analysis with consideration given to how much time and effort is required to fix something versus the expected returns, but with writing it’s an incredibly nebulous process. I can’t make a spreadsheet to track these things. I have no idea whether any individual written work will amount to anything, no matter how much I tinker with it.

But then again, the idea of quitting is unpalatable to say the least. To quit is to admit failure. To accept defeat. To raise the white flag and lay down arms and be forever branded a loser, or worse, to silently fade into obscurity. History is written by the victor, after all, and his books are certain to be published.

A compromise would be best, but that’s tough to accomplish on a limited time budget. It’s easy to say that I’ll toil diligently on both old and new works, but can I really do both? Will dividing my attention lead me to do two things adequately rather than one thing well?

This will be the year to find out, I suppose. Once more into the breach and all that. I’ll let you know when the soup’s on.

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