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    GREGORY WOLFE in Christianity Today, March 2008

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  • The Master's Artist is a group blog for writers united by the blood of Christ and a love for language. We come from different backgrounds, have different theological outlooks, and are interested in a wide variety of genres and artforms. The opinions expressed belong to their authors alone -- and you're welcome to share yours.

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July 20, 2010

Comments

Pamela

A drowning mad would never chastise you for not using the perfect stroke when you saved his life.

susan fish

Interesting thoughts. Without really having to choose, I choose polish. Not in an obsessive way (I like the joke: how many people does it take to paint a picture? Two - one to paint and the other to shoot him when it's done), but I would rather write one excellent book than fifty okay ones. And to respond to Pamela's comment, maybe a sloppy stroke won't get you to the drowning person.

Oh, and send me your silver. I looooove polishing silver. There's a satisfying before and after to it.

Heather

Susan, a secret: I don't own any real silver or else you could have at them!

Also, to clarify, the question is not whether you'd publish or polish but publish or perfect. Don't mean to be the panties-in-a-wad girl, but I think there's a difference. We all want to polish to achieve excellence. But is perfection necessary for excellence?

Jeanne Damoff

Good questions to ask and answer. I definitely think there comes a time when you have to send your story on out there, trusting that you've polished it enough, and knowing that--if a publisher buys it--the book will go through several more edits before it ever sees the light of day anyway.

God is the best artist ever and does exactly what He wants to do, and He didn't make us perfect. Our flaws make us more interesting. (At least that's what I'm counting on.)

Love,
Jeanne

susan fish

I will still really vote for aiming at perfection. And again, not in an obsessive way and not in a way that means you would never send something out, but really going for the moon. There are people who err on both sides of the equation, but I honestly believe we owe it to God and to the canon of literature to offer our very very very best.

Kellye Parish

I don't know. As an editor by day and a writer by night, I guess I'm inclined to revise-as-I-go when it comes to my own work (and I will revise over and over and over again until it's as close to perfection as I can manage) so by the time my work actually reaches the publication stage, there's very little to be done with it.

I guess I'm Team Polish. I'd rather be known for one excellent novel (like Harper Lee) than two dozen mediocre ones (not naming any names here 'cause I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings...)

I think it helps you professionally to be a merciless revisionist too - if you take the time to *really* analyze and edit your work before you send it out, your chances are better of getting published in the first place.

Heather

Susan and Kellye--yes, I agree that we aim for perfection. I think I should have done a better job of defining terms. I absolutely believe in revisions! I believe we should work toward offering our best. I say that both as an artist and as a believer.

Jeanne--It's funny how much our artistic life intertwines with our spiritual life. As a believer, I aim for holiness (because God is holy) through his grace knowing I will not achieve it until Christ returns.

Jeanne Damoff

Yep. I say aim for perfection, but don't let that keep you from obeying Him in the day to day. If we wait till we're perfect specimens of holiness, we won't do anything this side of eternity.

As for polishing our work, I definitely fall on the side of better/fewer books per author. I don't know how many times I've heard testimony along these lines: "I spent ten years polishing my first novel, and then the publisher only gave me six months to turn in my second." There has to be a healthy balance somewhere. Good stories need a little fermentation time.

Like Kellye, I edit as I write. I have to. (There's no one right way to create the "first" draft, no matter what anyone says.) By the time I reach the end, every page has been revised multiple times and will be at least a few more. I agree with Susan that "we owe it to God and the canon of literature to offer our very best." And I know you do, too, Heather. I think your point here is that we should recognize perfection is an unattainable goal in any area of life. Our best will not be perfect. But it should definitely be as shiny as we can get it.

Good discussion! Thanks again.

Broken Vessel

My self-published book is as broken as me.

Ironic, seeing as how I grew up a perfectionist ~ so much so, that severe depression and struggles with suicidal thoughts marked much of my life. If I let this stop me from sharing the message God gave me for a very small, niche group, it would never have been written. My prayer is that He is glorified and His strength made perfect in my weakness. He knows I did my best, and I can rest in that.

1 Cor. 1:26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

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