Some time ago (before all my college classes became science), I ran across a version of this "vision not matching what's on the page" in my set design project for a theatre class. (I talked about this is in a blog here, The Writer's Perspective: Making Connections in a Setting.) I had to sketch a set for a play, and when I finished, I was happy with what it showed me about the play's plot and characters. In this process, I learned an awful lot about matching setting to a vision.
But my vision got a little murky when I brought in my sketch to class and I saw what others did. It turns out other groups did collages and didn't attempt to draw! One group even used a computer program. How could my hand-drawn crooked chairs compete with 3-D graphics? I felt silly and thought I had to apologize for the drawing quality. So I did. I pointed out every flaw. In a way, I was expressing that writer's lament, "My vision, how I imagine the story in my head, doesn't match what's on the page."
Only this time, it was an apology. The more I talked, the more feedback I got for improvements from my group members and the instructor and I clearly remember how I was a little hurt that my drawing (when drawing quality "didn't count") wasn't good enough. I left the class kind of bummed to go back to fix something I thought finished. I had no enthusiasm to go "back to the drawing board," so to speak.
It took me a while to realize what is rather obvious to me now. Can you guess? I'd brought a large portion of criticism -- constructive as it was -- on myself. THEY weren't saying it wasn't good enough. Instead, they were feeding off of what I was saying...hence, the word "feedback." It comes back to you like a wave, fed by voicing the tangible flaws that are the only reality the critics can know. They have the reality of a sketch.
I also realized it wasn't only the dread of extra work I wasn't happy about, it was knowing revision wasn't going to change the *vision* of what I'd figured out for the whole; how these pieces of setting work for character and plot. Sure, it was "rough." It was, after all, a "rough draft." But the essential pieces were in place, crooked lines and all. The sketch was not the vision, it was a necessary tool used in crafting the vision.
So I didn't change a thing.
But that is not to say I was finished. For the final presentation, I added a script and used my original drawing for my visual aid. By then, I had a story to tell. My project was voted the "winner" by the class and I'm still as thrilled as if I'd won a Tony award. I like to think "character" won the day.
I try to remember this experience in my advice to myself for the next time I lament (or apologize!), my vision, how I imagine the story in my head, doesn't match what's on the page.
Try to remember the big picture. Pieces of the big picture might seem to miss the mark, but they work for the whole and DO match the depth of the vision. Try to remember that one part taken out of context doesn't have to carry the full load of what you're trying to say.
Hmm. If anyone else told me that, I'd nod and say I like that advice. But the same advice only touches me when I make it my own. This time when I hear it I can relate.
This experience with criticism in a group did not turn me against sharing a work in progress, but I do have a new perspective of "feedback." I think when I share my work I've become more careful to consider whether what I'm sharing is, in fact, a "tool" for my vision. And if the work in progress I'm so strongly tempted (or required) to share is delivered with hints of an apology, whether I realize it or not, I can expect negative feedback.
Maybe the criticism of many voices suggesting changes to "what is on the page" are valid.
But this is when we have to trust our ability to be our own best critic. We're the only ones who know the big picture. We're the only ones who can say when "wrong" is right.
What advice do you give yourself when you lament your vision doesn't match what's on the page? Have you experienced sharing a "sketch" of your vision too soon?