Yesterday I happened to look out the front window just as our mailman stopped. He put a few envelopes in our standard-size mailbox, and then reached back into his truck for a brown cardboard box.
Yay! A package! I love packages.
I figured he'd bring it to the door, as he usually does with packages, but no. He decided it would fit into the mailbox.
He was wrong.
Not that he would admit it once he got started. Probably because he was so close to right he couldn't stand to back away from his course of action. So he kept on pushing. Rearranged himself and got both arms into the act. Strained and shoved. I was too far away to see if sweat popped out on his brow, but I'm betting it did.
Yes, I could have walked out at this point and relieved him of his effort--it's not like I was lounging around the house naked (then)--but I was sucked into the drama of his struggle. Would he give up? Would he succeed? Would my mailbox survive the assault?
And he could have walked that package to my door (and himself back to his truck) three times during this episode. At a leisurely pace even. I was torn between admiring his stick-to-it-iveness and questioning his intelligence.
That's when it occurred to me I'd been in the same place before with my own chosen field of work. I've tackled scenes in my writing just like that damn package. Looking at them, I've thought they should slip right into the "mailbox"--my WIP--but somehow they didn't ... quite ... fit.
And yet I struggled with them, squishing and warping and shoving them until I forced a fit, even though it would've been less work for me to just give up already, and write a new scene.
Yeah, you could say I'm a wee bit stubborn.
So, did the mailman succeed? Yup. He got the the package in, slammed the mailbox shut, and drove off with a look of grim satisfaction on his face. I could almost see the testosterone coursing through his veins.
BUT. It took me five effing minutes to get that effing package out--I nearly pulled the mailbox off its wooden post doing it. And I broke a nail. Huh. Screw his victory.
The package was crumpled at the corners, but otherwise okay. It performed its function--that of transferring its contents* from the manufacturer to us--adequately.
But you know what I decided? I don't want my ill-fitting scenes to function adequately. I want them to fit seamlessly within my book, so the reader doesn't have to work to ignore the crumpled corners to get to the goodies inside.
I'm not saying scenes should never be hard work--plenty of them are. But if you can't make them fit without leaving them so scarred the reader notices, then maybe your efforts could be spent more wisely. There's a difference between applying elbow grease towards polishing, and stubbornly whacking away at something just to win.
*What was in the package? Cigars for TG. All that for cigars. Not that I don't think he deserves his occasional indulgences, but I'm the one who broke the nail. It should have been my books from Amazon.