My last column was a New Year’s Day resolution and tradition piece
My last column was a New Year’s Day resolution and tradition piece that told the story of my memories of my grandmother’s pink applesauce and my family’s attempts to use her apple sauce as a way to maintain the connection to people we love. It was a fun column to write.
Yes, despite what some of us learn in school as drudgery, writing can actually be fun. Except for those times when I sit down without an earthly idea of what I’m writing about, writer’s block locked in … immovable … like the cornerstone of a massive skyscraper, and it gets later and later on Sunday evenings when I traditionally write my columns and I have nothing written down on paper yet at 11 p.m. and my Monday morning deadline is looming as if being midway in a tunnel with a full speed train looming and no way out. Maybe, then, writing isn’t that much fun.
No, it wasn’t writer’s block with my pink applesauce column. The words for that column actually flowed. I finished that particular piece of writing before supper.
But writer’s block isn’t the only pitfall to writing. In addition to the occasional writer’s block, another I face is finishing a piece of writing and then moving on. Some say writers should not re-read their writing after submitting it for publication because you’ll just beat yourself up over the writing and find words you wished you had used instead of the words you did use. Searching for perfection — another pitfall — I re-read my writing and find changes I want to make sometimes just a day or two before the Havelock News is published.
I’m sure Ken Buday, the Havelock News editor, would prefer that I leave him alone after first submitting my columns. But he graciously makes the changes to my writing that he can right up to the last moment, feeding my unobtainable search for perfection.
Elusive as perfection is, it still bothers me to not achieve it. I intellectually know it can’t be achieved. And I’ve been so unsuccessful in pulling it off you’d think I would have learned my lesson after free-lancing for various publications for 30 years or so, including the Havelock News for the past 16 years.
Take my Jan. 5 pink applesauce column for instance. While I suppose I fancy myself to be a bit of a writer, I’m obviously not a very good one. In writing about a lady in a trailer selling collards I wrote she was “peaking” out her screen door. That word should have been “peeking.” After re-reading my column several times days after first submitting it to Ken, I still failed to find my error using the word “peaking,” meaning “achieving one’s potential at some point” instead of the word I should have used “peeking,” meaning “peering from around a corner or from a small space.”
My writing program’s spell check didn’t catch this mistake and wouldn’t. Over dependence on spell check is another of my writing pitfalls, albeit a modern one. I just now noticed I used the word “earthy” instead of “earthly” in the second paragraph of this column in my first draft. My earthiness wasn’t what I was attempting to convey in that sentence. Spell check wouldn’t have caught that error, either.
And then I incorrectly used the adverb “perfectly” in my pink applesauce column when I should have used the adjective “perfect” instead, as in describing the blend of pink applesauce and turkey and stuffing as, “a perfect sweet and salty combination.” It has been said that, “The road to hell (for writers) is paved with adverbs,” so using the wrong part of speech wasn’t bad enough. I had to use a weak adverb on top of my part-of-speech mistake.
It may be that beating myself up over the use of the word “perfect” in my pink applesauce column is a perfect coincidence to my illogical pursuit of writing perfection — or is “coincidence” really the best word? Maybe serendipity, destiny, or karma would be better words. I’ll make a note to ask Ken to modify my column when I decide which word is perfect.
But in the big scheme of things, the reality that I even have the opportunity to ponder such things — the facts that I have the freedom to write what I desire and the time, the means, and the education to do so — all these make my concern about writing errors seem very, very small, don’t they? Which, they are.
So the older I get, the more I discover how much I don’t know, can never know, and can never achieve, including perfection. But for some reason, my increasing knowledge of these facts hasn’t dampened my desire to keep trying. For me, I guess, that’s part of the fun.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.