The Editor (and creative contributor) to Her Book

Just the other day I officially signed off The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2 with the printers. I am relieved. Very relieved.

TFATF2 front cover-page001

Ridiculously, I forgot how much energy, time and focus it takes to put a book like this together. With 17 stories by 17 writers, internal illustrations by Emma Howitt to incorporate and a huge amount of editorial tweaking, typesetting and other things to organize, a book like this is actually a huge project to manage. And being the illustrator of the wraparound cover and one of the contributing authors actually made it more difficult. I’ll be honest, I find it difficult incorporating my own work into the books I publish. Because, being also the editor and publisher, I have the power to do last-minute tweaks. And having the ability to do last-minute tweaks isn’t good for me. In the proofreading stage I am looking for flaws. I am hyper-aware of them and suddenly everything I have written or drawn seems rubbish, amateurish, not worthy of publication. I wonder why I ever thought it was a good idea to get me, as Marija Smits, involved.

TFATF2 wraparound cover art by Marija Smits
TFATF2 wraparound cover art by Marija Smits. I’ve actually added to it since then!

I know a fair few HSPs who say that the issue of perfectionism is a problem for them. They set such impossibly high standards for themselves, which they know they can never achieve, so they don’t bother starting… because if it won’t be perfect, why try? Nowadays, I don’t tend to have this problem (although I did, especially with art, as a child) because I realize that art-wise nothing is ever really ‘perfect’. One can always re-work a sentence or add another brushstroke to a painting, or a little more shading to a drawing… But of course I would like to do things as perfectly as it is possible to do so and this is where the anxieties come in. The thought of putting something out there that is less than ‘perfect’ give me the heebie-jeebies. However, ultimately, writing and art, is subjective. Yes, I wouldn’t put forward my work for inclusion if it was massively technically wrong, and I do get useful and honest feedback on it that tells me if what I’ve created is a huge no-no or, in fact, has promise. But – and coming from a science background, where objectivity rules – I have had to learn that artistic endeavours are inherently subjective. At some point we have to let go of what we’ve created and say it is as ‘successful’ as it can be. No more can be done with it. Then you must let it find its own way in the world…

So someone will like the theme and the narrative of my story, ‘Little Lost Soul’ within TFATF2. But someone else won’t. My cover art may resonate strongly with one person, yet someone else will instantly know that they don’t like it. That’s fine. Really.

Of course we will have to see whether I can actually keep being philosophical about this, and take the genuine positive feedback graciously and the not-so-positive feedback with a view to learning about what works for some readers and what doesn’t work for others, but for now there are other things to do: the editing of others’ books, poetry and short stories to write, and other creative projects to start dreaming about.


And finally, just to illustrate that these kind of creative worries have been around for a fair long time, here is an excellent poem that describes what it is like to ‘birth’ a book and then let it go… (the author, Anne Bradstreet, was born in 1612).

Writing Bubble
Mother's Milk Books

17 thoughts on “The Editor (and creative contributor) to Her Book”

  1. Yes this sounds familiar! I have to somehow physically drag my own self away from a manuscript when it is ready for publication. I can’t resist changing a word or a sentence. I think it never feels completely finished but I have to realise there’s a moment when my tweaks are just tweaks and aren’t going to make any difference to the readers’ experience. Good luck with the book!

  2. maddy@writingbubble

    Congratulations! I’m not surprised you’re relieved – what a massive project! To edit and publish alone would be a lot of work but to also include a piece of your own writing AND do the cover art… that’s so much time and energy and opportunities for the self-doubt demon to bite. And you’re so right about art being subjective. I know this and yet I still secretly want everyone to love everything I produce even though I know that’s an impossibility! We just have to keep reminding ourselves that everyone has different taste and that’s ok. I’ll buy a copy of the book, for sure. Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting xx

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Maddy and I’m looking forward to reading what you think about the book, although I totally understand that some stories you may *really* like and some you may not like so much… but I’m okay with that. 😉 And you’re welcome re: linking up. I love #WhatImWriting!

  3. Tracey @ One Frazzled Mum

    Oh wow, firstly congratulations. I think it looks great you are so right about letting go, at some point you just have to stop

  4. It’s the age old dilemma of being unable to please everyone. The likes and dislikes we have are what make us individuals, so it, rationally, seems silly to attempt to keep everyone happy. however, as artistic people, we are bound to want to please. No one wants to lay their soul bare to have ti ripped apart by someone who hated what we did.
    I agree with Becky, there are some wise words here about letting go! x

  5. Pingback: ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2’ – launched! | E. H. Illustration

  6. I love that poem! Still so completely apt. Well done on getting this collection off to the printers – I’m not surprised it’s been a challenge. For what it’s worth, I love the cover art. Looking forward to reading the stories too! xx

    1. Yes, the poem is great, isn’t it? And thanks for your kind words re: my art. And I do hope you get to read the stories and that you like some of them. 🙂 Best wishes! xx

  7. It took a while for my copy to get across the Atlantic, but it really is a thing of beauty! You did an amazing job pulling it all together. For the record, I thought your story was a classic too – like Phillip K Dick, but with a bit of Mother’s Milk magic:)

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