Horrible. Disgusting. Did I write those lines? How could I have? What got into me? Was I drunk when I penned that paragraph? And the next one is even worse. These are questions and assertions that sprang to mind whenever I reviewed the first chapter of my novel The Phantom Lady of Paris.
I don’t know about you but I’m the greatest critic of anything I write. And I’m convinced most creative persons are the same way. Examples: I expect if you exhumed Picasso and put one of his paintings before him, he would want to change it in some way. “A little more orange here. A darker hue there.” Etc., etc. The same could probably be said of Leonardo da Vince when it comes to his Mon Lisa. “Don’t you think her eyes are too inexpressive?” Or “I failed to put a maternal softness to her lips. “The irony is that the world sees nothing wrong with the works of these great masters. The great masters see many flaws in their works.
When doing a book signing, I’m often asked to read a portion of my novel. I don’t want to do that. Why? Because every time I read from my book, I silently edit as I read. I am plagued by critical questions within my mind, similar to the following: “Why did I use that word there? Another word is much better. Why not use a more graphic and visceral term?” And on and on and on. The queries do not stop.
Recently I had quite an educational and enriching experience. For once, I liked what I had written. How could that possibly happen when I’ve been so critical of my lines and for so long. The answer is simple. A publisher of audio books has agreed to turn The Phantom Lady of Paris into an audio book. The publisher sent me a sample of the audio volume. I play it, sat and listened. I heard my lines and I did not mentally edit the material. I let the word spoken by the professional narrator draw me into the tale.
Listening, I had a revelation. The enlightenment was this. As long I read what I have written, I will forever be critical of it. But…when a professional narrator reads the same lines, I become detached from them. And the words sound fresh and new and good. I liked what I heard. No, I loved what I heard.
Maybe there is a lesson in all of this. I won’t tell you what it is. I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself. Anyway, happy listening. And HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!