Scissors: My Favorite Thing Ever

by Cooper Young

After spending something like the last three hours attempting to sew myself a new dress, I have finally realized why no previous attempt has ended in anything but a mess in the living room and a pile of scraps in the office.  It’s not frustration with my poor ability to work my tools; I do enough craft work to understand that skill comes with enough practice.  It’s not a lack of understanding of the medium; I knit, crochet, spin, embroider (needlepoint, both stamped and counted cross-stitch, hardanger), quilt, and generally know a substantial amount of what there is to know about fabric, thread, and fiber.  In a phrase, I know what I’m doing.

It’s not the heartache of ripping stitches; I everything I do involves undoing hours of work at some point.  If you want a beautiful rose bush, one that’s full and fat and just lousy with flowers the size of your head, you have to be willing to cut near to death over and over again.  We can perpetrate no act of creation without obliterating something else.  Philosophy aside, it’s something rooted in basic physics.  I get that. It doesn’t bother me.

Tonight, as I was pressing a square taffeta collar, I realized that the problem I have with sewing- machine sewing clothes, that is- is that the process revolves around a concept I find more repellent than Lovecraft found foreigners: “Good enough.”

You eventually reach a point were due to medium, method, and skill level there are simply no more stitches to rip.  From a distance- and I’m talking hugging distance- the piece looks just fine.  No one can tell that there’s a 1/16th of an inch error in one tiny spot.  No one knows.

But I know.  I know it’s not perfect.

It took me close to forty minutes to iron a two inch wide collar, and I still wasn’t happy with it.

Needless to say, editing is not high up on my list of things I hate to do as a writer.  If I’m having trouble writing or want to avoid it for whatever reason (usually killing a favorite character or just not having a clue what comes next), I edit.  I pick at things.  I am never, ever satisfied.

So, three days ago when I had to kill my first “darling”, a character in Descent named Alu Palehand, I got out the bourbon.  A character had to be totally excised; there was simply no way around it.  He had the potential to take out three longish scenes, and I was dreading the work of trying to save what I could.   I psyched myself up, made a mantra of Faulkner’s declaration, and drank my bourbon.

Turns out, it didn’t hurt.  Hell, I had fun.  I would have cut a good deal more if my editor hadn’t told me to leave certain things where they were.

It still needs work, of course; the cancer is out but I haven’t sewn up.  The point, though, is that it will always need work.  It will never be “good enough”.  I, like all other humans, am an imperfect creator, I am painfully aware of that fact, painfully.  There is no satisfaction for me, because whatever I do could have been just slightly better.  My work will only be complete when someone takes it away from me.

How is it for you guys?  Is there a point where you’re able to call it good and done, or would you pick your work to death if permitted?  Have you found the end?