Monday, September 21, 2009

Is This Good Enough?

My seven-year-old has responsibility to clean two rooms. One is his bedroom, but I never make him bother with it unless someone like my grandmother is coming to visit because I've never in my life had a neat bedroom and frankly think they're overrated. My room is my sanctuary, it should reflect me. And I'm not a neat person. Neither's my son.

The other room he's supposed to clean is the game room, which he uses much more than anyone else. For the most part, he does a decent job, but once a fortnight or so it'll fall apart and he'll have to be nagged to tidy it. Several times during the process, he'll appear before a parent with the question, “Is this good enough?”

His father will state there's no such thing as 'good enough' and the room is either clean or it isn't. And, yeah, we did demonstrate the point that line's crossed, but it isn't like we expect the kid to shampoo the carpets or anything. He's not aiming for immaculate, but for 'clean enough my parents will shut up.' He's absolutely going for good enough and just wants someone to tell him what that is in a way he can understand and remember. Getting the room acceptable once didn't get him to really grasp the goal.

I'm thinking about this now because this morning I started attacking Shadow again, ripping apart the opening chapters and gluing them back together in a way that will hopefully be more demanding of attention. I'm supposed to be done with Shadow. I thought I was. I thought I couldn't do anything else to it, or I wouldn't have been trying to get people to look at it over the summer. But the people I did convince to glance at it didn't love it, leaving me wondering if the problem was them or if my story isn't good enough.

There's controversy over the words 'good enough' in the writing community. Some people are very offended by it, saying we shouldn't be aiming for good enough but for our best. Well, yes... But... When do we know if our current best is good enough for anyone else? There's never going to be a point when I can't look at something I've written and come up with something to change about it. I'm one hundred percent certain of that. And I can point to several books on my shelves that are revisions of books published earlier in their author's careers, which leads me to assume other writers are the same way.

Like my son cleaning the game room, I'm looking for good enough. Good enough to make myself happy. Good enough not to embarrass myself. Good enough to entertain others. Good enough to be published. Those are four different good enoughs. And I have little idea what's good enough by the standards of strangers. I know I can't drag them over to my manuscript, force them to look at it, and demand they give me a straight answer on the issue. So I struggle along, working in my vacuum and wondering if I'm even in the vicinity of where I'm supposed to be.

No comments: