The CEO of my company called a meeting in which I was required to attend. What I learned while I was there had nothing to do with software. It had to do with decision making speeds and failure recovery times.
My CEO is a charming, intelligent, intense man. He led the meeting, taking control of the whiteboard at once. He started giving us scenario rundowns. As soon as he concluded that the scenario was no longer pertinent, he discarded it, changed gears, and picked up the next case. Not one moment lost to the fact that he worked it out to that point, not even an explanation behind his motivations, just an about face, forward march.
His decisions were just as lightning fast, and unforgiving. It was quite scientific, for being so ad hoc. He split down ideas to their tiniest parts, unrelenting in his direction.
I have been agonizing over a manuscript since 2009. I have rewritten it eleven times. I spent money on a professional editor to clean up and improve the quality of my work. And I then last night, I sat down and talked to her about my story.
Nothing about my stories is particularly well thought out. I’m a pantser – I ride the waves of my imagination and fill in everything as I need it. This doesn’t allow for certain basic tricks – foreshadowing foremost among them.
I have a good story, I believe that. However, to make it a great story, would require me to bust back down to scraps and rewrite it AGAIN. This time, with a goddamn plan.
Now, here’s my decision. Go forward and spend around a year once again reworking a story that has eluded my grasp for almost four years? Or abandon a work that I’ve invested a few hundred dollars and a lot of hours into?
My decision came to this: I’m going to walk away. I have been working on this work for a long time, and it was my practice run. It’s a fun story, I feel it can be something. But, if I choose to put it down today, I can come back to it in a year or two, and look at it with fresh eyes. I can take what I’ve learned and apply it to fresh stories that haven’t worn grooves in my head, and keep it moving.
My editor gave me something that I never had before – her undivided attention and professional know-how. I have had my work edited before, by friends with talent of their own, but they were doing the work for free, and consequently everything had priority over what I’d written. Working with her went far beyond me handing her money. She gave me feedback, perspective, and an education. A one-on-one teacher just for me.
Now, though, I feel the pressure to produce; pressure from myself, pressure from my friends, and from my readers. I want to put out a book a year, but I don’t have the skills quite yet to churn out that kind of product. I feel the loss of this work, even though I have a get-out-of-jail free card and can change my mind at any time, and it makes me sad.
This was a big step for me, deciding to step away from the sheltering arms of my talent and walk into the light of learning a skill. The stories will always be mine, but I’m ready to take them as far as they need to go.
My final thought here is that I am learning from my CEO. Today I’m dropping my manuscript, tomorrow I’m picking up the pen again for a new project.