Receiving End

With pen in hand, Laura was still working on page two of my five-page submission while the other three members of our writers’ group were on either page four or five. What’s taking her so long? I flipped the page of the Writer’s Digest magazine I was reading in a futile attempt to quell my anxiety.

Unable to resist, I cast a furtive glance at Laura over the top of my magazine. I could tell she was reading then rereading either a sentence or a whole paragraph. But she’s not writing anything yet. That’s a good sign. Then she started writing. I shook my head. Oh no. Here she goes.

She wrote. And wrote. The other three members finished; all of us sat quietly waiting for Laura, who was finally on page four, making notations in the margin, adding a comma here and there, rewriting a sentence, and deleting another one. Will this never end?? Turning to page five, Laura cleaned up some awkward language, circled yet another “it” (her pet peeve), and glanced over the piece one last time. Finally–thankfully!–she put down her pen.

The next morning I poured over each member’s feedback, but it was Laura’s that rankled; it always did. Oh, what does she know? I shoved the copies of my piece into a folder and buried it beneath a pile of papers on the dining room table. For two days, I pouted. Cried. Considered never putting pen to paper again. Then I got mad. What made Laura an authority anyway? Okay, so she was an editor. Still.

On the third day, I slithered to the dining room table and unearthed the folder. Maybe Laura’s right. I viewed her feedback with less emotion this time. As much as I hated to admit it, in many instances Laura was spot-on. I incorporated her suggestions and submitted a much tighter, cleaner piece at our next meeting.

I’d like to say that being on the receiving end of rigorous editing has gotten easier for me, but it hasn’t. Now as I edit another person’s work, I pray that he or she realizes my intention is to help his or her message or story leap off the page through crisp, tight, clean writing. My intention is to help other writers as Laura helped me.

Thank you, Laura.

Why I Do What I Do

The first thing I wrote publicly was my first name when I was six years old–on the freshly varnished wood trim around my bedroom window. Using my favorite pen that Aunt SeDell gave me for Valentine’s Day, I found that the turquoise ink was far too garish in broad daylight, so I opted for carving my name in the soft finish with the cap of my pen instead. Once my first draft was completed–all five letters of my name connected in a makeshift cursive style–I tweaked and refined my masterpiece night after night until the letters were etched deep enough in the wood to be noticeable to the naked eye. The night my creation was completed, I slept the blissful sleep of a contented writer…which was shattered first thing the next morning.

“Why did you do that?” Dad asked me, stunned, when Mom’s outraged shrieks brought him running to my bedroom once she discovered my handiwork. I shrugged. Not once did I question why I was writing–okay, carving–my name in the woodwork. Nor did I imagine that my creation would cause such an uproar. All I knew was that I needed to write (carve). And so I did.

And that’s why I still write. Because I need to write. Because I need to follow the instinct to pay tribute to  my experience, to the person I was at the time, to the person I became because of the experience, and to the people who helped shape or shared the experience. And maybe through my stories I will encourage somebody else to share their stories as well. For when it comes down to it, we are more alike than we are different.

Dad made a big to-do about how he was going to have to sand and revarnish the wood. But for some reason, he never got around to it. Forty-three years later, my name is still carved in the wood trim around the window of my old bedroom, testimony to that little girl who just had to write for all the world to see despite the consequences.

The Encouraging Editor

Writers need people in their lives who believe in them. Those precious souls who believe in what they do and why they do it. Who cheer them on when they want to give up and pick them up when they fall. I know because I, too, am a writer.

I know what it is to pour your heart and soul onto the page, laboring night and day to find the perfect word, coin the perfect phrase, and crafting the perfect sentence in an attempt to evoke the intended emotion or to communicate a vital truth. Then when you’re brave enough, you send your baby out into the world, filled with hope, terror, joy, despair, anticipation, and dread for who knows how–or if–your baby will be received?

Not only is writing an often lonely vocation, it’s also an emotional roller coaster fraught with dizzying highs and bend-inducing lows. That’s where I come in, the Encouraging Editor. I know the crafting tricks along with the emotional travails of this achingly lovely vocation. I know what writers need and why they need it. And that they can’t create for too long under their own steam.

I love the act of writing, the craft of writing. I love words. Where would we be without them? Writing is essential to each of us as individuals and to our society and culture as a whole. Let me help you bring your message alive.

Keep writing. Don’t give up. The world needs your message offered from your perspective through the lens of your experience. The world needs you.