Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Great Expectations

The first weekend of August, I went to the Oregon coast with my family. When we went to the beach that Saturday morning, it was grey and misty--typical for the Pacific Northwest. Since we're all born with webbing between our toes, we didn't let the damp get to us. Rain or no, the ocean was amazing as always.

As it happened, the skies parted that afternoon and we had a sunny drive down the coast to another small tourist town. We stopped along the way to enjoy the beautiful day, because we know they don't come along very often.

Later, while in a tourist shop, I entered a conversation between the clerk and some tourists. They wanted to know where a certain restaurant was, and she happened to give the wrong answer.

"Actually, that's in Newport on the historic bay front," I corrected.

"We were in Newport earlier and we didn't see it. But then, it was so busy we didn't really stop to look around."

"I'm not surprised, on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon like this."

The wife then looked at me in shock. "Really? It's a little windy, isn't it?"

"I suppose, but look at the sun! At least it's not cloudy or raining."

Her jaw literally dropped then, I kid you not. "Is it usually like that here?"

After holding in my laughter and reassuring her that yes, it does usually rain on the Oregon coast, I started thinking about expectations. The weather disappointed her because she expected sunshine, no wind, and (presumably) slightly warmer temperatures. Meanwhile, 70 and sun thrilled me enough that I'd have put up with gale force winds.

When we write, do we let our expectations get in the way of the joy we can take in the process? We expect our book to automatically be as good as one that's been edited and revised multiple times. We expect to have the same mastery of craft as someone who's been writing for years.

Let's take a step back. Are we writing? Is our story coming together in a way that at least bears a slight resemblance to our original idea? During the rough draft, that's all we can expect.

I am not for a moment saying you should settle for that in your end product. Writing, and even self-publishing, is not about slapping a cover on a shoddily written and edited manuscript and calling it a book. However, writing is a process, and you can't expect the product at the end of stage one to look like it will at the end of stage fifty. Manage your expectations, and you'll be able to enjoy each part of the writing process.