Are You Sincere?


Okay, so I’m still slogging through revisions. It’s fun, daunting, and (forgive me!) tedious all at the same time. When I’m writing an original draft, my brand new plot glides so smoothly across the page, free of the eddies and currents caused by multiple read throughs, strikeouts, hack-jobs, and edits. After three, four, or even twenty tweaks, I’m convinced that I’ve worked and re-worked to the point of turning my once glassy manuscript into a gritty, wrinkled, crumpled piece of paper. It’s at this point where I come close to declaring the whole thing unreadable, disastrous, and generally unfit for anyone’s eyes but my own. Thankfully, reason takes over and I recognize the “good” and edit out the “bad” with relative confidence.

Often, writers refer to revisions as “polishing.” I, too, use that term. It makes me feel good. Polishing indicates pruning, shaping, and overall quality improvement. The finished product is deemed better and therefore good enough to be viewed by others.

*Tangent alert*

Folk etymology describes the development of the word “sincere.” It is derived from two Latin words: sine=without, and cera=wax. In ancient Rome and Greece, dishonest sculptors covered flaws in their work with wax. Since shops in those times were dark places—unfortunately, no fluorescent lighting existed yet—patrons risked purchasing faulty pottery unless they brought the piece outside and inspected its quality in the sun. Trustworthy sellers marked their wares with the term “sincere,” thereby claiming they needed “no wax” to smooth out imperfections.

(I am getting back to my point, I promise this with the utmost sincerity!)

The endpoint or goal of writing is to present a perfect, shiny manuscript, sans flaws, without wax. Sometimes—okay, a lot of the time—it feels like my shadowed, dark world of inventing has blinded me to the mistakes, passive voice, trite ideas, and less than believable characterizations having their way with my sculpture of words. I use revising like wax to smooth out these imperfections. As a result, when I offer my pages for another person to read (sometimes I pity my betas!) I am convinced they will see the flaws, the thick wax covering plot holes, awkward phrasing, disjointed dialogue, and hemorrhaging lines of backstory.

To my endless relief, I’ve gotten incredibly helpful feedback. The changes suggested aren’t as devastating as expected. MAJOR rewriting is not needed. A sigh of relief escapes my lips. The grip of nerves choking my stomach eases. Certainly, the work needs improvement, but it’s manageable. Mistakes, so long as I’m able to recognize them, are allowed. It’s my willingness to learn from them that makes all the difference.

My work is honest, true, my own. It is, in that way, sincere.

Hmmm. Maybe I am a “real writer” after all. I think I’ll go outside and enjoy the sun.

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