Thursday, January 3, 2019

Regarding Rockets And Writing

By  Jack Matthews

We've reset the calendar. Writers, all of us, are making goals, ramping up projects, and looking to launch. It takes planning to make sure things don't blow up on take off.

We started with an idea and built a framework with all the necessary parts—a beginning containing a motor with enough thrust to drive the thing to apogee; a middle—or sustainer—to keep opening and end firmly in touch with one another; and an end containing all the ingredients necessary for a successful, satisfying, and perhaps surprising landing.

It might have flown then, but we decided we could do better. We modified it—adding detail and our own unique style. However, the modifications changed its balance and stability, introducing a fatal flaw. It wasn’t going to work, so we changed it again to correct the trajectory.

In our haste, we were careless with the modifications—the parts fit loosely and clumsily together. We weren’t satisfied, so we weren’t done. Working alone for weeks that turned into months, we tightened things up and smoothed the transitions until they were seamless.

This was our first one. We solicited opinions from masters of the craft. Their feedback was mixed, but the question consistently asked was—why were we doing this? Who’s our audience? Serious and knowledgeable practitioners? 

The general, and less critical, public at large? Perhaps just friends and family, who love us unconditionally. Or were we doing it only for ourselves? If so, did we just want to see the infernal thing fly . . . Damn the outcome? Or did we want to polish it to perfection? 

In which case, it might never get off the ground. 

After serious soul-searching, we decided—fly or crash—we wanted to make it the best we possibly could. A superficial coat of paint wouldn’t hide all the flaws, so we started over. We listed the mistakes made in the first build (a long and humbling exercise), tore it apart—ripping our heart out in the process—and began again. 

We used new techniques and tools to sand the rough edges and polish the transitions. We worked more efficiently and completed the second build in half the time. 

It’s better now—not perfect, but our time on this planet is limited. We discover ‘the best we can do’ is not an absolute target, but changes as our life changes. We marry, get a paying job, raise kids, retire, and welcome grandchildren into our home. We get older. Death creeps closer. Time runs short. 

The best we can do is constrained by the circumstances of living.
We step back and take it all in from top to bottom, beginning to end. It looks like it could fly. Are we done? Maybe. Maybe not. 

The more important goal is to launch our projects, uh rockets. We are writers, and like those engineers at NASA albeit with less physical risk, we've worked, we've reworked, we've worried. 

But it’s time to find a launch pad. 

Jack Matthews lives in Fort Collins. He writes Creative Non-Fiction and Fiction. He still isn't sure what he wantsto do when he grows up. "I’ve tried professional student (8 years until the money ran out), science teacher (9 years until the money ran out), engineer (15 years until the spreadsheets fried the brain), and environmental consultant (12 years until I lost the war). Writing has always been a therapeutic avocation, and the clock is ticking."

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