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Nailing It Every Time

March 4, 2012

So I came to a realisation today.

I was watching my favourite electronica artist make a track on a stream last night. Making electronica music looks incredibly fiddly, and sure enough, he was there, picking out all the samples he wanted and adjusting their pitch, their echo effect and all sorts of weird dials to make it sound perfect. Someone asked him in the chat if he ever throws away any songs after doing them, to which he replied something that shocked me:

“As a rule of thumb, for every song I make, I throw away 10.”

TEN!? I couldn’t believe it. I always assumed this guy went into his music software, played with the samples, made a kicking song and hit the ‘upload to interwebs’ button after an hour session or so. Little did I know this guy had an entire graveyard of works that never got to see the light of day. His dislike for them was so much, he actually declined someone’s request to hear the discarded songs, saying he wouldn’t feel right in releasing them.

It makes me wonder about my own stories. Some of the short stories I have written just didn’t feel right – the initial image of the story I had in my head turned out to be not as exciting or engaging as I first thought. I always assumed “Oh, a polish and a clean will fix that right up!”, but I never really had any desire to polish it. It wasn’t just the way it was written that felt off, it was the story itself.

I’m starting to think that maybe, as a writer, you can’t nail a good story every time. Even if you polish it and make it glisten, the very core of it is still rotten and not really that pleasant. Perhaps this is what most writers do – write a few stories that don’t quite make the cut before they find the one that really drives them to polish it, refine it and ship it. I feel the polishing phase shouldn’t feel like a chore – it should feel like improving something you know and believe will absolutely rock your, and your loved ones, socks off when it hits the print.

This kinda thinking has taken a load off my mind – I have a few shorts that need polish, but have no desire to do so. Instead of thinking “Just do it already, or else all that will have been be a waste of time!”, I should think “It didn’t quite work as well as I wanted”, maybe leave it for a few months and come back to it with a fresher, more refined mind. I shouldn’t feel I have to polish every story I’ve written, only if I want to. Writing a story I actually believe in is probably the best way to spark that desire!

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