Rendered Fat Content


William H. Martin: The largest ear of corn grown (c. 1908)

"I might have to smother it if I expect to succeed."

I get an earful when preparing my manuscript for Publishing. I listen to the stories in different ways than I listened to them just after writing them, and also different than I did while assembling them. Once assembled into a contiguous whole, I hear different voices than I remember hearing before. After so many repetitive listenings, my ear had learned to become more critical. If I'm not careful, and perhaps even if I manage to become really careful, my ear becomes critical. My prose relies upon a certain innocence from listening ears. Experienced through a critical filter, it seems to need endless reworking. It could have been simpler, my suddenly CriticalEar suggests. It could have been more eloquent. There's no end to the little improvements the later listenings suggest, just to be helpful, only to enhance.

I'm experienced enough to understand that the time for wholesale improvement has already passed.
The final passes exist solely for embellishment: the odd rechosen word, the necessary correction. I am experienced enough to understand that it's always in the nature of the written word to seem to need improvement. Though improvements may even serve to improve something, the time for reengineering's clearly passed. The work will remain almost as conceived, for its immediacy might just be its underlying purpose. Anyone might produce a perfect piece through infinite iteration, but perfection was never one of my initiating expectations. I wanted more of an honest assessment, one which included the typical blemishes, one which represented my actual experience rather than a phony representation. I intended it to seem a little crooked on its foundation.

The first time listener's unlikely to notice, for it's in iteration that the subtler components emerge. I overuse some common phrases, just like everybody does. A work devoid of my signature misuses would only have very limited uses and poorly represent my experiences. My voice does seem fussy sometimes, but only because my voice seems awfully fussy sometimes. It wouldn't sound like that if it didn't sound like my voice. I didn't write the book to idealize my experience—quite the opposite. I didn't want it to be comprised of just warts, of course, but of warts and
all. My newly CriticalEar hears altogether too many warts in the stories. He cringes at the authenticity, which does not sound all that authentic after decades of training in appreciating well-crafted fiction. Fiction focuses upon presentation in ways my Friction should never dabble and doesn't.

My CriticalEar notices irregularities in nearly every sentence. I cringe as I listen. I tuck my neck down a little deeper into my collar and continue, increasingly desperately wanting just successfully to make it clear to the end. I want to say that I listened to the whole damned thing, and to do that, I suspect I need to become more accepting. My inner critic has already missed his moment. I am steadfastly not producing this work for the ages but to better represent the moments that might eventually represent this age. I want my readers to revel in my prose's imperfections, to hear in my intonations what the experiences sounded like when first echoing in my head. No trained Shakespearian actor was narrating my story, but my voice, not even my audible voice, but the one I hear inside my head that tells me my own stories. I was trying to represent that imperfect narration.

If I'm not careful, and even if I achieve requisite care, I could undermine the whole Publishing operation. It was not supposed to sound perfect, and my inner critic's presence is no longer needed or appreciated. I have no idea how to turn off his well-intended suggestions, but I see the necessity of listening with my deaf ear sometimes. I'm going to get to the bottom of this "final" listening if it kills my CriticalEar. I might have to smother it if I expect to succeed.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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