In Pursuit of Excellence (Part 2) we explored how we pursue excellence in our writing by preparing the mind.
In Pursuit of Excellence (Part 3) we began building towards excellence.
And, in today's post - the last in the series - we will learn how to realise excellence.
Consistency: Write with consciousness, not habitually. It’s important – particularly in the editing process - to be aware of how our writing habits affect the level of consistent excellence in our work. Inconsistent writing means that there are parts of our story that are less than excellent and we need to root out those parts and rewrite to a consistently high level.
Balance: The pursuit of excellence is not free of its own dangers. We can become so hooked on checking this word and on searching how to improve that paragraph, that we expect perfection before we dare let others see our work. Keeping a balanced view is essential or else we can use our search for excellence as an excuse to procrastinate. Strive for excellence, but always remember that there comes a point where, on our own, we can do no better than what lies before us on our page. There comes a time we need to accept that we’ve done the best we can for now. And that’s when we must send our work out into the world, to stand alone and face the test of the unknown reader.
Resilience: If our manuscript comes back to us with the dreaded word “Rejected” on it, we need to be able to bounce back and start again. And again. And again.
Life isn’t about how hard you can hit;
it’s about how hard you can be hit...and still get up.
Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)
At the awards presentation, Smit went up to collect the lesser valued Freedom Cup. Then, unexpectedly, he called his vice-captain, the bearded giant Victor Matfield, up to the podium and indicated that he must have the honour of lifting the more coveted Tri-Nations trophy aloft. In doing so, Smit proved he is a leader of excellence: confident, yet humble, he leads by example and knows that the victory is not his alone to savour.
Every writer who pursues excellence in the writing craft must realise that, on the day our debut novel is birthed, the triumph is not ours alone. Ours may be the name on the cover but, surprisingly, writing is a team effort. In the same way that John Smit acknowledged the help of his team in winning the trophy, we should acknowledge that we need the help of crit partners, blog friends, agents, editors, marketers (and even the publisher's tea lady) to get our stories into the hands of our readers. All that can be truly ours in the writing process is the continued pursuit of personal excellence in our craft.
Without a doubt, technology has made our lives as writers easier. It also, however, tempts us into forgetting that every book, every word we write, demands the very best of what we can do.
When a flower blooms deep in a forest, its fragrance unnoticed, is it any less beautiful? So to our manuscripts. Even if we are the only ones who ever read our stories, remember this: the writer who constantly pursues personal excellence in every aspect of his writing craft is the writer who has the best chance of eventually being published. And he may even become the Ernest Hemingway of this generation.