Tuesday, August 01, 2017


by Rick Blechta

noun: exigency; plural noun: exigencies
an urgent need or demand.
“Women worked long hours when the exigencies of the family economy demanded it.”
synonyms: need, demand, requirement, necessity

This has become a big word around the Blechta household. My wife Vicki, the French linguist, likes to use it (exigence) when talking about the way she approaches music and teaching, and it’s rubbed off on me. To sum up a whole lot of thoughts, the meaning for us is to make sure you’re doing a task correctly — and doing it until it’s completely done.

It’s never good to fake things or take unnecessary shortcuts in life, even when driven by contingencies, and if you are not forced onto that path, you should never fall victim to that siren song. At least that’s what my parents tried to drive into my head. It took me a long time and many unnecessary hard knocks before I realized they weren’t just being “annoying parents”.

It is tough to be that kind of demanding on yourself. The writer’s craft is one place positively brimming with reasons to be particularly exigent. Has everything been a researched as it should be? Is every word correct and the best choice? How about grammatical construction, spelling, correct word usage? The list goes on and on. Handing in a manuscript full of (usually avoidable) errors shows lack of professionalism and craftsmanship. If pressed, every writer would swear that they don’t cut corners. I definitely would. But truth be told, I have been guilty of it at times, even though there’s a certain self-loathing involved.

Right now, I’m faced with it every day while doing my Last Great Graphic Design Job, the Bouchercon 2017 Programme Book. I spent uncounted (but not unfelt) hours logging in over 700 author photos, all of which needed to be cropped and adjusted to fit the design with which I’d come up. All ads needed to be check thoroughly so I could be sure they’d print properly. And now as I’m laying out the pages, I have to check, re-check, and re-check again that I haven’t made any errors in executing my page designs.

It is a pain for sure, but in the end, the heart of the meaning of exigency is the search for perfection. And the only way to attempt to achieve perfection is through the use of extreme exigence.

I’ll let you know if ever do reach that exalted summit in a project.


Sybil Johnson said...

I've been tempted many times to just finish some project as fast as possible because I'm a bit tired of it. I have to slow myself down. On the other hand, being the perfectionist that I am, I sometimes will overthink and overdo things to the point where it's not helping. I think there's a happy medium there somewhere. I think I find it most of the time.

Charlotte Hinger said...

I think people who organize conferences deserve a medal

Rick Blechta said...

I agree and I will pass on your sentiments to the co-chairs of Bouchercon 2017. It's going to be a great one. A splendid time is guaranteed for all!