The Saltiness of Time

Your lordship, though not clean past your youth, have yet some smack of age in you, some relish of the saltiness of time.” – William Shakespeare

I realize, before anyone takes notice and remarks, that I’ve mentioned this aspect of writing before…but, like most worthwhile things, it bears repeating: I’ve heard that at some point in their career, a great many authors will grow embarrassed by their earliest work. A friend and I spoke at length about this and per usual, it has now become fodder for a blog post.

It wasn’t that I disagreed with anything that was said, quite the opposite. However, one small thing—that minor prediction—rang untrue. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a moment like this; where solid bankable information, for whatever reason, doesn’t equate for me like it should. Let me be more specific. When I was in High School, a male friend made the remark (rather heatedly) that I would speed on a regular basis once I got my license. I’ll not easily forget sitting in the passenger seat of his mother’s cutlass that night, feeling very much like my companion had been abruptly replaced with a stranger, and thinking, “There are many things about who I am and who I will become that still feel vague or wholly unknown to me…this is not among them.”

I’m 29 now….obviously been driving for a while….and I’ve never once been pulled over for speeding or been given even a single parking ticket. You know why? Because I rarely ever speed. Unless I feel that something serious is at stake (like the interior of my car should I find myself in dire need of the facilities) then it just doesn’t occur to me. How could I have possibly known that about myself three years prior to obtaining my license? The same way that I know now, regardless of how much I will inevitably improve over the years, that I’ll never feel embarrassed by my early, unformed, rough-edged, voice.

There are some of you, like that boy who once said he knew me so well, who are saying at this very moment that I’m naive, confused, or romanticizing this in an attempt to appear pious. I won’t try to convince you otherwise, just like I didn’t argue with him. Time, unforgiving and omniscient, is the only thing that can justify my words. But, as an author, there will be more than a few occasions where people in authority will tell you things; sound, appropriate, reasonable things. They will mean well. They will be right 99% of the time. That doesn’t mean it applies to you.

Now, I’m not saying it will always be a good thing when what they say doesn’t apply to you. What “should be” isn’t always related to the running habit of lemmings. However, what it should be is genuine. In order to know that, you have to question everything that makes the core part of you bristle. There is a reason for it and it isn’t always denial or fear. Sometimes, it’s your foundation groaning under the weight of what will naturally test weight-bearing walls. They’re constructed that way with good cause.

How will you know? You just will. That’s all I can tell you. If you’ve taken those seemingly indulgent moments to study every ridge, groove and crevice of your cornerstone, you’ll know beyond a shadow of a doubt if something doesn’t fit.

 The real question though, is will you try to make it fit anyway?

17 responses

  1. Hmm. I’ve always hated that mention. That we, as writers, will one day be embarassed by our early writing. How could I possibly be embarassed by something that I love so much and that has made me grow in myself, in my writing, in my career, like my first book? It’s been the inspiration that has kept me motivated for longer than I care to mention. It’s been a corner stone of my art, and a secret of my heart for so long… I can’t ever imagine being embarassed by it. Perhaps, yes, one day I shall look back and giggle at my younger self for mistakes or naitivity… I do that all the time to myself now. But I know myself well enough to know, that I will not be embarassed by my Trials. The first book I ever decided to writer. I will not. I can not. It’s been too much of a learning processes and it’s given me way to much. She may not be perfect, but I wouldn’t have become the woman I am without that story haunting my head for the last ten + years. Or maybe every young author feels this way, and eventually those who lose their passion become embarassed by it, and allow that embarasment to point at the writiting that carry that passion? Hmmm.

  2. Your analogy, Breanne, of speeding with your core beliefs as a writer and linking it somehow to your or anyone’s earlier writings has me confused. First, what is it about speeding that you abhor? Is it breaking the law or is it putting yourself and others in danger? Personally I have very few restraints. I control my speed mainly because I don’t want to get a ticket. Now, Im pretty sure I wouldnt murder anyone. The penalty for getting caught is so horrendous that no one I know and have hated is worth murdering for me to take that chance. And I do like to think but I don’t know this is that murdering someone is so repulsive to my moral structure that the pleasure of payback would not be worth it. Anyway I stray. Im curious as to what impressed you as a teenager and still as an adult about not speeding? The speed limit is certainly arbitrary.

  3. Linton, before you read my response, be sure and don’t hear more in my tone than is there. I’m not irritated. I’m blunt as to avoid misunderstandings.

    It has you confused because I wasn’t making an analogy between speeding and writing. I used the example of that conversation to highlight that there are times when you’ll know things about yourself despite the assertions of others, regardless of how much logic is behind them. I think you may be reading through these posts too quickly and skipping over things as you assume what I’m going to say next. When you read my stuff, just know that every line counts. I don’t pad or give vague inferences here. I say exactly what I mean.

    “How could I have possibly known that about myself three years prior to obtaining my license? The same way that I know now, regardless of how much I will inevitably improve over the years, that I’ll never feel embarrassed by my early, unformed, rough-edged, voice.”

    It was never about the speeding. As for your question on why I *don’t* speed, I answered that, point blank. Look again and you’ll find it.

  4. As I am editing my first manuscript, I cringe that one day I am expected to be embarrassed by this work. I love my story, I love my characters. I am in love with the process that thrust me from scribbling on note paper to actually typing out this tale. I am a stubborn mule, Taurus by sign, Taurus by nature, and I may be naive. But I can say, without a doubt, I will never be embarrassed by the notions in my head that put me here, responding on a writing blog. Even if it never sees a bookshelf, I am proud of my crazy cast, they are like family. So, to all those stuffs who recycle this dribble, as my Nana would say, “Go pound sand!” Or as I would say, the crass way, “Shut the front door!

    • But charli mac, who is dissing your work? Who are you telling to go pound salt? It seems to me that you are the one who is dissatisfied. And with your craft rather than the story and characters. Craft can be learned. Keep plugging until you have learned it, then with it, you can display your ART as a story teller in the best fashion so it can be enjoyed by more people. Art is within and can not be learned.

      • Hmm. No one is dissing my work, yet. I have a query out, and am awaiting feedback. What I meant was that people who “recycle” this type of negativity can “go pound sand”.

        If someone reads my work and finds fault whether with my technique or style, I will learn from it. As as writer and former educator, I learn every single day. I make it apoint to. This past year alone, my writing, my craft has grown by leaps and bounds. But regardless of how well I mold my art, I will never be embarrassed by any of my work. How could I? All our work is the result of what our souls meant to pour out at the time. That, I will never be embarrassed of.

        So, to all those people who spew such negativity, baseless at that, I tell them to “Shut the front door.” 😉

  5. Linton, I’m beginning to feel like I’m picking on you. I adore you, but you keep misunderstanding what’s being plainly stated here. I almost didn’t post your last remark because it doesn’t make any sense.

    Sand…not salt, sand. Charli didn’t indicate that she is unhappy with her work—craft or otherwise. Where did you get that from? And as to the question of who, she stated that clear as day: “…to all those stuffs who recycle this dribble….” and before you can ask, “this dribble” refers to the cliche that was the actual point of my post.

    No one was dissing on her work, rather she was commenting on the generally held opinion that all authors will look back on their early work and cringe. A notion that, if I understood you right, you’re rather fond of. Art and Craft as being inherent or teachable, are totally irrelevent to this particular blog post and more exclusively, Charli’s comment.

    If you were looking for a reason to begin a discussion about those elements as stemming from either nature or nurture, all you had to do was say so.

    As for my reason for not speeding (that you still can’t find)…I think it’s more a matter of it not being what you would qualify as a reason. Semantically speaking, it’s hard as a brick to miss: “it just doesn’t occur to me.” You couldn’t have read over that twice and missed it, surely…

    Now that I feel like an uber bitch, I should at the very least let you know that I debated (heavily) not responding to this. However, you leave comments on my blog and you’re fair game for my feral, petulant, comebacks. Tread here and speak at your own risk, my friend.

    I am a redhead afterall…

  6. I’m sticking my neck in here, and I may regret it, but I just want to agree with what the blog says. I am somewhat embarassed by my first book, and whenever I tend to send it out for test reading, I let people know “This is my first – expect it to be rough and bumpy, even after several edits.” I still have a lot of learning and maturing to do with regards to my writing now, but I was sort of like a toddler then, stumbling about and searching for my voice. I think, as well, that I share Justine’s view in that I will always love the story and the characters, but there is more than just plot and people to a novel and it’s the “other” that makes me feel uncomfortable now when I look back. That being said, I will keep trying to edit it and improve it without changing the essence of what I wrote – and that is where the challenge comes in.

    With regards to speeding – I have my own strong view on this as well. It isn’t just about the ticket to me, and it makes me sad that that is all that it is about to some people. I know people who have died because of speeding…other people speeding who survived the incident. I also know people who died because of their own speeding, in some cases combined with drinking as well. I don’t speed, and it is not simply because I don’t want a ticket. That idea seems to have been completely dismissed from this topic of conversation.

  7. Madam Blogger,
    Thank you for your response to my post to Charli. After rereading it I have to agree with you that I might have misinterpreted what she was saying and I appreciate your pointing this out. Her use of “Cringe” and “to all those stuffs who recycle this dribble” led me to post my deluded opinion.”

    “this dribble” refers to the cliche that was the actual point of my post.”

    I’m sorry, do you mind stating this cliché? for I…duh,,, seem to have missed it.

    Sand…not salt, sand.” Your pointing out she posted “go pound sand” and not “salt”, as I did, doesn’t deserve the “I gotcha” impression I interpret. They both mean relatively the same thing, “Get lost” unless the meaning is esoterically blatant somewhere like the reason you don’t speed and the cliché that was the point of your blog that I don’t see.

    “Art and Craft as being inherent or teachable, are totally irrelevant to this particular blog post and more exclusively, Charli’s comment.”

    Since she stated she was editing her first ms and my deluded opinion she was unhappy with her work, I felt it important to encourage her. I’m sorry about straying from the point of your blog post but many times people are compelled to respond to the comments of others than that of the blogger.

    I’m glad you did respond and I welcome being fair game for your or anyone’s feral, petulant, comebacks as long as I have a chance to respond. Wherever I tread, dearest redhead, I am always delighted to speak at my own risk.

    I have tried here to respond to the points where I have a difference. I can only hope you will do the same.

  8. In the first paragraph I state that, “I’ve heard that at some point in their career, a great many authors will grow embarrassed by their earliest work.” That’s said so often that it has become a cliche and it’s what Charli was referring back to.

    She said ‘cringe’ in response to the cliche. “I cringe that one day I am expected to be embarrassed by this work.” I feel like you read the first few lines of every sentence and skip the rest.

    Don’t be absurd. It wasn’t that you strayed—it was that you strayed becase you misunderstood Charli. Your opinion isn’t deluded, per say, just misguided a little. Saying that craft can be learned, indicates that she hasn’t learned it yet, and I don’t know that such a statement would encourage anyone who hasn’t outright said that they specifically need to improve their craft. Don’t give me the usual mess about everyone needing to improve their craft, that’s not my point. Of course we all need to improve…

    You’re always welcome to voice anything and everything you have the desire to—I welcome it. I just don’t want you to get pissed off or get your feelings hurt without reason. That’s not my intent. If I didn’t like you, believe me…you’d know…

    Chantal, you’re not sticking your neck out at all. You’re simply being honest and I deeply appreciate that. The whole purpose of this blog is encourage people to look beyond the initial “safe” response to things and get a little deeper. I even appreciate the fact that you stated it was a risk to say what you said. It tells me that you’re willing to be genuine despite the reactions of others (not that it was in question). Just because a sentiment seems cliche, doesn’t mean it isn’t true for some people…I’d go so far as to say a good many people. Or else the word wouldn’t get around and it wouldn’t be a cliche. So, thank you for your input. I do agree that there are more things to consider than characters and plot, however, for my own work there is a degree of simplicity (what I lovingly called, rough-edged and unformed) that’s present in the ‘Guardians’ trilogy that isn’t present to the same degree in my latest work. Given the story, I’m glad for it. It’s fitting somehow. It’s also been through nine thousand edits and had at least one (and a half) freelance editor(s) glance at it before it was accepted for publication. So, I’m not talking about stuff that I tried to polish up on my own.

    And technically speaking, Son of Ereubus, while it is my first book as an adult, it isn’t my first novel. My friend and I wrote 5 while we were still in school. Do those really count? Doubtful, which is why I normally don’t count them…but for the sake of conversation, I’ll say that unless you are married to me or related to me (closely) you’ll never see those works. I love the characters, but they were written before I had any skill at all. So…perhaps this too is where the cliche started.

    Either way guys, I appreciate your input and discourse. It’s why I’m here…xoxo

    • You can’t fault me for quoting my Nana, she is 88 years old. She’s been saying “Go pound sand for years”. Maybe it’s a Philly thing or something she made up. But Nana’s is always right.

      Now, after reading all the debate here I went back and read my first attempt at writing my novel. POV, head hopping- all over. Passive not active, telling not showing, adverbs galore! Completely unpublishable. But am I embarrassed by it? HECK no! I sat and typed out over 120 pages in a day, in a flash, and my characters took their first breath.

      After reading some books, joining critique groups, my craft took shape, I found my voice. Now, I look back and I am so proud. Why? Because if not for that first attempt thrown together loaded with mistakes, I wouldn’t be here today debating with you lovely people. 🙂

      For me embarrassed borders on shame and how can we ever be ashamed of our own work? It comes from such a SACRED place, a place that deserves reverence. When I write it’s like going to church, it’s the reflection of my soul, and it is here that I feel closest to whatever is out there looking down on us all.

      Now, will I be embarrassed by a blog post loaded with typos, yep. A chapter submitted to critique with lazy spelling errors, you bet. But to look back on a completed work that way, never in this lifetime.

      Thanks JS, you got what I was trying to say. 😉

  9. I read this post and was going to make some general comment when I realized it applies to me. Another example of what’s being discussed here is my editor wants my fantasy novel to conform to some very strict rules. The main rule is no loose threads, no unresolved plots or action. If character A says going to pick blueberries then he better do so or I need to cut it because nothing can carry out even if picking blueberries is my hook for Novel 2 in the series.

    I have, of course, disregarded his comments because I don’t believe he knows what he is talking about. Fantasy novels, can have some threads that connect multiple books together so long as the main action is resolved (which in my case it is).

    Subtlety with which this kind of round-peg-into-a-square-hole is discussed is very nice. I almost missed the point.

  10. You have a lot of good insight here, J. I think you’re quite right. Thanks for pointing that out for me. Sometimes I feel the same way…and then I wonder why things aren’t adding up. Good observation. Thanks for pointing my gaze in the right direction 🙂

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