The Ugly Stepchild


I haven’t been able to do any work on my book projects lately because of my other duties. I am frantically trying to complete the last few articles for my university’s alumni magazine. The articles are due Friday, and from the beginning, when I went into the Planning Committee meeting with one idea and came out with another, I knew that I would have problems.

I have spent the past month trying to get people to return my emails and phone calls. Finally I was successful last week in getting most of the responses I needed. But I was faced with trying to, as my Daddy used to say, “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Editing an alumni newsletter means always putting a positive spin on your articles, even when there may not be a positive spin to be put. But when you are on deadline, you learn to bull ahead, regardless of how the manuscript looks at the time.

I use an article in one of my classes that makes reference to this process as “the shitty draft.” I have sanitized it a bit and called it a “crap draft,” but the sentiment remains the same. Sometimes you simply have to get words on paper, ugly or not. Articles, and the magazine later on, often go through the “ugly stepchild” phase. It would be nice if all of them were perfect throughout the whole process, but in my experience in writing article and books and editing magazines, I have had more “ugly stepchild” moments than “proud papa” moments.

That’s not to say that you disown your stepchildren. Well, in extreme cases maybe you do. But most of the time, you continue to labor with them, ugly or not, until you get them into a semblance of acceptability. And I have a pretty good record of making that happen.

Right now, I have three ugly stepchildren that I am dealing with. The good news is that they are written. As far as dealing with the bad news, the rewrite, well, that can wait until tomorrow.

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