I played my share of Mortal Kombat as a child, so before I go any further, I want to make sure everyone’s reading the title of this post with the voice used to say, “Finish him!” at the end of the match. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, here’s a little help from Wikipedia on what this means (additions in brackets are mine):
A Fatality is a gameplay feature in the Mortal Kombat series of fighting games. It is a finishing move that can be used against one’s defeated opponent [in this case, my manuscript] at the end of the final match, after the boss character says “Finish Him/Her.” The Fatalities are usually lethal, featuring a brutal and morbid execution of the defenseless enemy character; however, some of them are actually non-violent and humorous, and some even result in the suicidal death of the losing character [oh, dear].
Every time I get notes on my full manuscript, I end up taking a few weeks to digest them before I dive into revisions. Some of this is because I need to wrap my head around the notes and consider where and how I’m going to make changes. The other part—the more influential part this time around—is because I’m afraid to jump back in. What if I don’t change enough? What if I can’t bring this manuscript up to the next level?
Last week, after much hemming, hawing, and explaining to anyone who asked about my book’s progress that I was stuck in a vortex of fear, I opened up the document, changed the file name to reflect the new draft, and got back to work. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad.
Maybe it’s because I’d spent enough time thinking about my edits that I was ready to go to town on it. Maybe it’s because I figured that if I don’t get it to where it needs to be this time, I’ll simply try again. Or maybe it’s because I’ve started applying this prayer—which, if you’re not religious, you can call a poem and still get something out of—to my writing.
Love and Fear
There are only two feelings. Love and fear.
There are only two languages. Love and fear.
There are only two activities. Love and fear.
There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks,
two results. Love and fear.
Love and fear.
—from “A Common Prayer” by Leunig
When I approach my writing with fear and anxiety, I’m not going to produce my best work. When I trust that I am capable of at least making my writing better with each pass, even if not perfect, my manuscript will continue to improve, and so will I, as a writer.