The trou­ble with per­fect

Make it hap­pen, make it work, then make it pretty

The Central Voice - - Front Page - Carolyn R. Par­sons is an au­thor who lives in cen­tral New­found­land and Labrador. She can be reached at car­olyn­r­par­

Do you re­mem­ber the char­ac­ter Don Mu­sic from Se­same Street?

He’s the pup­pet in the clas­sic tele­vi­sion show be­ing in­ter­viewed by Ker­mit the Frog while try­ing to com­pose a song. As Ker­mit tries to as­sist, he bangs his head on the pi­ano keys in dra­matic fash­ion say­ing, “I’ll never get it, never!” in frus­tra­tion.

I have had many of those head on the key­board mo­ments in my writ­ing ca­reer be­cause I suf­fer from per­fec­tion­ism. Re­ha­bil­i­tated, some­what, I have to be mind­ful or I will spend hours ag­o­niz­ing over a sin­gle word choice. I’d have a story idea but get ob­sessed and frus­trated that what I want to con­vey wasn’t com­ing through. So, I’d quit. It wasn’t un­til I re­al­ized that if I kept rewrit­ing the first chap­ter un­til it was per­fect, I’d never get to chap­ter two. So now I just get (aw­ful) words on pa­per un­til I fin­ish a draft and worry about rewrit­ing later.

While au­thor Kate Sparkes of Lewis­porte didn’t get stuck in the per­fec­tion­ism cy­cle for quite as long as I did, it is some­thing she strug­gled with also. In our con­ver­sa­tion ear­lier this month, she said, “Per­fec­tion­ism kept me kinda hung up and not pro­duc­ing.”

What cured her of this de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tion? Na­tional Novel Writ­ing Month, bet­ter known as Nanow­rimo. (Coin­ci­den­tally, this free, on­line chal­lenge re­quires a per­son to com­plete 50,000 word draft of a novel in Novem­ber. So you can start now!)

Com­plet­ing the chal­lenge knocked Sparkes out of her per­fec­tion­ism. To fin­ish the draft be­fore the end of the month she had to for­get qual­ity and write an av­er­age of 1,667 words per day. It left no time to ob­sess over the per­fect sen­tence.

“It was lib­er­at­ing,” she said. “It’s ex­cit­ing and ev­ery­body is do­ing it at the same time and it put fun back into the writ­ing.”

Sparkes has com­pleted eight nov­els since then, writ­ing fan­tasy and ur­ban fan­tasy un­der her own name and the pseu­do­nym, Tanith Frost.

Her ur­ban fan­tasy is set in New­found­land and Labrador.

“I don’t know what it is about this is­land, but it’s very rugged and it’s very beau­ti­ful and there’s some­thing mag­i­cal about it,” she said.

As an in­de­pen­dent au­thor, in­stead of painfully try­ing to per­fect her work on her own, she pays for edit­ing and book cov­ers. She also does all her own mar­ket­ing. The re­sult is that she is a USA To­day best­selling au­thor.

Sparkes ad­mits she strug­gles with feed­back even though she knows it’s for the best and of the cor­rec­tions or sug­ges­tions, says “I was so aw­ful. I’d be in tears over it.”

Still, she gets through, works to­wards ex­cel­lence and even­tu­ally hits the pub­lish but­ton.

This Nov. 26, in­stead of Nanow­rimo, she’ll be re­leas­ing book five of her Im­mor­tal Soul­less Series, en­ti­tled Temp­ta­tion un­der the pen name Tanith Frost.

I my­self have had to learn to ex­cel at com­plet­ing re­ally crappy first drafts. Once the ugly story is on pa­per I can take de­light in mold­ing that bun­dle of aw­ful into some­thing that re­sem­bles a de­cent story. For­tu­nately for me, draft­ing is a fast — if painful — part of the work and rewrit­ing is my favourite thing, now that I’ve de­vel­oped my process. Mold­ing some­thing that was writ­ten on pure in­stinct and imag­i­na­tion into a read­able story worth shar­ing is where the cre­ative magic hap­pens.

Con­fu­cius said, “Bet­ter a di­a­mond with a flaw than a peb­ble with­out.” and I think that’s just about per­fect.

Kate Sparkes can be found at www.kates­ or www. tanith­

A full in­ter­view with Kate Sparkes will air on the Bridges Ra­dio pro­gram avail­able on pod­casts on all ma­jor plat­forms and at show/bridges-ra­dios-show

Carolyn R. Par­sons Art and Soul

Carolyn R. Par­sons Art and Soul

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