> CD #69: A dilemma
In the search for casual pants that are not jeans (it’s harder than you think), I recently found a pair of mid-weight black wool-blend joggers on Poshmark. When they arrived, though, I was a little disappointed because they were bigger than I’d hoped. They fit well enough to wear, but I felt dumpy in them. Then a few days ago, I ran the pants through the wash without thinking and accidentally shrunk them—and now they fit better. A fashion miracle! Or is it a laundry miracle? Either way, they are much improved.
Now the dilemma: Do I risk washing them again? There’s a chance they could shrink just a smidge more and become the pants of my dreams (ha). But what if they get too small? Should I only use the washer and not the dryer? Do I need to hand wash them from now on? If so, can I avoid washing them altogether? I mean, how dirty are my pants really?
How do you know when something is as good as it will get? How do you know when to push for more?
I’ve been taking an oil painting class with Craig Stephens and in each session we spend about an hour making a still life. The fun of oils is the paint stays wet for a long time, so you can make a lot of small adjustments as you work, pushing the colours back and both until you get something closer to your intentions. But that malleability is also super frustrating because you can easily undo the good stuff you’ve done already. Sometimes, at the end of a painting, Craig will talk about diminishing returns, when all you’re doing is being finicky and not really improving the work anymore. As a professional, he knows when to stop. For me, a newbie painter, it is really difficult.
Sometimes when I’m giving manuscript consultations, people ask how I know when a piece is finished and ready to submit for publication. My short answer is: I don’t really know. Often it’s just when the story feels complete, like it has become the thing it wants to be. Pure gut instinct. Other times, I’m just sick of working on it, telling myself, “I’ve taken this as far as I can. Time to see if an editor thinks it’s something.” The results vary.
However, there is a way to know if something isn’t ready to go out. Many people come to me with stuff they’ve never shown anyone else. I always tell them to find a couple of trusted readers, that they need to get used to sharing their work. It is a scary thing, of course, to let others see your writing, especially if those people are in your life and you’ll have to interact with them on a regular basis. You feel exposed and vulnerable. But a piece can only be complete in the act of being read. And good beta readers can keep you from embarrassing yourself in front of the professionals. They can also make your work better, and tell you when you’ve done enough.
As always, what’s good for the creative life can also apply to life in general, I think. Each of us is a work in progress. And the scary (but beautiful) thing is we need other people to help us become the thing we’re supposed to be.
All of this to say: please tell me what to do about my pants.
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