Handmade

I was in the car on my own recently–something which doesn’t happen all that often, and so I took the opportunity to listen to the CD which happened to be in the player. One of the songs, Everloving, by Moby, came on, and I hadn’t heard it for a while. So I turned it up.

It’s a fairly short song, and quite simple. I really like it, but with the windows shut and the volume up loud, I noticed something I’d either ignored or not realised before: he makes mistakes.

At the beginning, when he’s playing guitar, he fumbles over some of the notes. Sometimes he doesn’t quite hit the one he should have. But the rhythm is good, and it’s only the odd one, so if you’re not listening really closely, it doesn’t stand out. And what’s more, it’s kind of endearing. Rather than being perfect, it has a more relaxed feel to it. It makes me think, ‘I could play that’. It humanises the music. Makes it accessible.

There are some guitar players who don’t miss a note. Obviously they practise and practise and work on the song until it’s perfect. I admire them, too. Because I think it’s admirable to be that dedicated to something, and to have the belief in your abilities (as well as the talent) to keep going, even when you’re tired and it seems like you’re working for nothing. After all, there are a lot of aspiring musicians, and only comparatively few who are masters.

Being able to play the song perfectly is something to work towards. But that doesn’t mean that all our attempts to get there are useless. There is beauty in imperfection. Nobody plays exactly like you do.

Nobody writes exactly like you do. You will look back over work you’ve done and think, ‘how juvenile, how unpolished…’ but that’s what practising is about. Just like music, writing is something which must be practised, if we want to improve it. But the little flaws are OK too. I’m not talking spelling errors or typos, obviously. I mean the use of cliches or the odd undeveloped character. Not every line is going to jump off the page in its brilliance. You can miss a note now and then, and the end result can still be beautiful.

One of the lovely aspects of making something by hand is the tiny imperfections. It’s what makes each piece unique–even when creating more than one of them. It’s what we like about something which isn’t mass produced. And writing–by hand or keyboard or however else you do it–is handmade, and it is wonderful, because of that.

It’s OK for the thing not to be perfect. Just keep practising, and get it out into the world.

 

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Worth it.

Sometimes I think it’s easy to slip into the idea that writing isn’t worthwhile, because it’s not a ‘basic need’. We need medical staff and truck drivers and electricians and market gardeners, because they provide us with everyday necessities and can be responsible for the difference between life and death. We don’t need writing. What’s the point?

And poetry. Especially poetry. When I write poetry, I feel more self-conscious than ever. Who am I, I think, to consider that I can weave words and play with the language like this?

But then tonight I read to my children from a poetry anthology I was given as a child, and… oh, poetry. I was reminded just how brilliant it can be. The imagery, the way the words and rhythm rhyme around one another, the way each poem sets its own pace, and reveals that to you, only when you read it, and especially when you read it aloud. The other books we read tonight were ones the children had heard before, but the poems were new to them, and they were enthralled. ‘Just three…’ turned into six, then nine, and then it really was getting late and they needed to be in bed.

Reading to my children is always a pleasure, but when I stumble across something both they and I love, it’s such a great experience. We sit together and drink in the words, and I realise–and wonder how I could have forgotten–that while it’s maybe not a matter of life and death, if there were no stories, no poems or songs, what a drab, depressing, colourless life it would be.

Write on.

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Just One Letter.

I was at the supermarket the other day and was looking at different shampoos for dogs. Our dog has a sensitive skin, so I didn’t want anything which was too harsh. I narrowed it down to a couple of bottles, one slightly cheaper than the other. I looked at the back of the cheaper shampoo.

‘Natural ingredients to give your dog a healthy shinny coat!’ it claimed.

SHINNY?!

I put the bottle down and chose the more expensive one. If they can’t do a basic spell-check on their label, I thought, then how am I going to trust their brand? It’s not like they mis-used an apostrophe, or failed to end a sentence with a full stop. They made up a word! It screamed a lack of attention to detail.

And it made me think about why it’s so important to get a good editor to read through your work. Yes, you can rewrite and do spell-checks and even get a friend to read it for you, depending on the friend. But when you put out a book, write an article, enter a short story in a competition… your name and your brand are on that work. People are going to read it, and judge you for what you’ve left in, or left out. They’ll decide whether they like your work, depending not only on how strong your writing is, but also how it’s presented. Typos, missing punctuation, spelling errors… they all add up to an overall impression, and that first impression is your best chance to get a foot in the door and have that reader continue to read, rather than putting your work down and picking up the next person’s submission.

After all, it’s not dog shampoo you’re selling. It’s your words. You need them to be as clean, well-groomed, and shinny as they can be.

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NEVER FEAR.

You’re hard at work on your novel/short story/dissertation/poem/article and you’re thinking,

If only. 

If only I knew of an editor, who would be able to proofread my work, and offer constructive, relevant criticism. Someone who reads every chance she can get, and who can switch between UK and US English (and Australian English, too, but pff, well, nobody really takes that seriously).

Oh, if only I knew someone who excelled in ensuring that my arguments were coherent, and could give me feedback about the plot or characterisation! Someone who also writes and has been published, and therefore knows the sting of rejection and the paralysing frustration of writer’s block! 

NEVER FEAR.

I’m here.

I’m Rebecca, your friendly editor, writer, and professional bilby.
I live in Albany, Western Australia, a seaside town where, on quiet nights, I can hear the train sounding its horn as it pulls into port, and where it rains quite a lot–for a sunburnt country–but that’s OK, because I like wearing hoodies. I also really like long sentences, but oddly enough, will totally pull you up on them if you ask me to edit your work. I’m pedantic that way. Also more than a little hypocritical, I guess.

More about me? Oh, OK, if you insist. I’ve done a few university degrees, been a high school teacher, worked in retail store management, worked in supermarkets, and waited tables. And I’ve been reading, writing and editing along the way.

I’ve a passion for language. I love the written word, because it allows for voices which might somehow seem too contrived for everyday speech. The act of writing something down is to preserve a moment which might otherwise slip away, unnoticed. It is to mark, in memory, a fleeting emotion. And if you’re interested in doing that, then I’m interested in editing it… and making sure you spell everything correctly.

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