Saturday, 24 October 2009

A Lesson from Tolkien

For those who may be interested, yes I am still reading The Lord of the Rings. I have finished Book Two, or the First Volume. TLOTR is often erroneously called a trilogy when it is in fact one novel of six books which is often published in three volumes (just a tiny bit of useless information for those that like that type of stuff).

It was something that I read in the Foreword to the Second Edition that hit a chord with me:

The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects, minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence ...

The most critical reader ... myself ... These last few weeks with the publication of my own book drawing near I've found myself being extremely critical of my own work. The turn of phrase that I'm not happy with. The transitions between scenes that are weak. The passage that is too 'preachy'. The choice of words that could have been better. They're all looming extremely large on the horizon of my mind right now. And I'm convinced that every reader is going to notice them too and find fault.

And I want to run and hide.

However it struck me yesterday that perhaps I'm focusing on the faults to the exclusion of everything else.

I do that in 'real life' too. I see my fish-like eyes, or crooked nose, the cracked tooth in front, or the stumpy legs and I'm convinced that I'm unattractive (don't go clicking on my profile photo to see what I'm talking about). Or I focus on my failures, my inability to talk in group situations, getting words mixed up in conversations (see now why I love to write), and looking foolish because I'm socially inept, and I fail to see the good.

Jules-like I look at the flaws. And I did that with my book until I read the above quote from Tolkien. If he, who became a loved storyteller of the twentieth century, could see his own faults and learn to live with them, then perhaps I need to do likewise.

And not just with my novel.