Good Enough for Jazz

I sent the text for my second novel off to the publisher last week, a few days earlier than the January 1 deadline they had given me. Why early? I just couldn’t look at it any more. There comes a point where editing fatigue sets in and no additional amount is going to make a difference.

Line art drawing by Pearson Scott Foresman, Wikimedia

Line art drawing by Pearson Scott Foresman, Wikimedia

After reworking it with the input of my writer’s group during the two-and-a-half years it took to create, incorporating comments from several reader friends, and then a two-month concentrated bout of editing once the story was finished, I had reached the editing-point-of-no-return.

In high school, my best friend was a saxophone player. I played French horn, and we sat next to each other in band. My friend was also in the jazz band, and when we were out gallivanting on the town or at home without our instruments, she used to sing the jazz songs to me that she was learning. That’s how I gained an appreciation for Count Basie, Woody Herman, and the like. She also shared a phrase that the conductor used to say when the musicians were tuning their instruments: “It’s good enough for jazz.”

So maybe the instruments weren’t perfectly in tune. For jazz — home of individuality and improvisation — perfect technique is eclipsed by style and feeling. Have an instrument not perfectly in tune? That’s cool, that’s all right. It’s good enough for jazz.

Of course, that would never fly in concert band. And the phrase struck the young me – who was ever striving for perfection and straight “A” grades. Not aiming for perfection went against everything I had been taught up until that point. It instilled in me the idea that sometimes, things are as perfect as they are going to get. Any additional amount of effort isn’t going to make a difference, and, in fact, it can detract from whatever you’re trying to do.

That’s what it’s like with my novel. I’ve made it as perfect as I can at this point. I am happy with it, but not overjoyed. Some parts of it I read and love, but other parts I’m not so keen about. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s better than a lot of published writing out there, but if I waited until I had the text in a form I was totally, outrageously happy with, I’d never get it off my computer and onto my publisher’s.

So it’s off. It’s gone. Another eco-mystic romance will be unleashed upon the world in June. It was so much fun to write, and I got to include some of my favorite topics, like music (although a more symphonic sort). The setting is in my home town, which I saw through new eyes during the writing, and it deals with issues dear to my heart, like climate change and endangered species recovery.

I’ll still have opportunities to tweak it (not to be confused with twerking it) before publication. But for now, it’s good enough for jazz.

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