Finding the Right Critic

December 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

If only it were as easy to find a great editor as it was in the latest Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. Owen Wilson (a West Coast Woody Allen) is a Hollywood screenwriter taking on his first real novel. A hopeless romantic he wanders the streets of Paris and reminisces about what it might have been like to live in Paris in the 20s. (mini spoiler) As he walks the streets at midnight he finds himself magically transported back to the 20s and in the company of the greatest writers, artists and thinkers of that time. Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) even agrees to read and critique his novel. If only it were that easy.

Even though I’ve never written a book, I know from the work I have done that editing can be what makes something great. Luckily my skin has thickened nicely over the years and I look at critique (or I should say good critique) as a positive thing now. When I was greener I always took it to mean I hadn’t thought through my work enough. Now I realize that critique can help unlock the greatness in your own thinking in a way you can never do on your own.

The hard part is finding someone you not only trust with your soul but that you trust to be honest. The last thing I want is too many cooks in the kitchen. I want to create a relationship with someone who can bring my work to the place it needs to be. This involves an inordinate amount of both trust and honesty. What better person to turn to than my husband?

John is not a traditional editor in any sense but he’s one of the most well-read people I know. The good thing is that I know he will hold me dead to rights in my own writing and help me get to where I need to be. As with any good married couple we can sometimes be overly critical of each other which I’ll have to watch.

Maybe we should edit over wine.

Writing a Story

December 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s the last week of a tremendous year. It may seem like I’ve already crossed writing off the list through my blog this year, but for my last week I want to explore writing a book. I have 3 sisters and as a kid my grandmother always wanted one of us to become a nurse and one of us to become a writer.  I’m no good with blood, so that leaves writing.

I don’t know that I could ever go so far as to call myself a writer but I like the idea of writing a book. Writing has always been one of those things lingering in the back of my mind that I’ve sedated over the years through lots of reading. I believe writing isn’t necessarily something you set out to do but can be something you accidentally bump into at some point in life. It then sticks to you like tar and you can’t shake it off.

Imagining that you not only have something to say but that you can also sit down and write it all out coherently is daunting to say the least. After this year and what I’ve experienced, I have something to say which is a start. Writing the blog has also been a good warm-up to creating a discipline of writing. I know I can make myself sit and write even in those moments I don’t feel like it. The hurdle will be releasing the story that wants to be told.

I think a good place to start the exploration this week is to look at what many of the great writers have said about writing. Maybe one of them will have words I can use to help guide me along the way.

Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.  ~Franz Kafka
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. – Ernest Hemingway

Not surprising encapsulations from these two. My writing will not be venturing into the same territory as theirs, so I think it’s ok for me to have a little less intense of an ambition than that. I need to find a less bloody analogy to pouring myself into my writing.

Every writer I know has trouble writing.  ~Joseph Heller
Easy reading is damn hard writing.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.  ~James Michener
The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business. ~John Steinbeck

It’s always reassuring to know that even great writers struggle with writing. It will be good to keep in mind when I hit a wall of frustration. If I don’t hit a wall of frustration then I need to push harder until I do. I like the sentiment of being better at re-writing than writing which I will adopt. It removes some of the anxiety of staring down a blank page.

If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.  ~Lord Byron
And eventually as I kept writing it, something emerged that was not quite me but a version of me. ~Larry David
Writing a story or a novel is one way of discovering sequence in experience, of stumbling upon cause and effect in the happenings of a writer’s own life. ~Eudora Welty
Was it only by dreaming or writing that I could find out what I thought? ~Joan Didion

These thoughts better represent why I’d like to write a book. How often in your life do you get to reflect in such a systematic way on what you’ve experienced? The closest thing I’ve probably had over the years is a performance review at my job which doesn’t even compare. This last year has been life changing in so many ways. In the process of writing a book I’d like to untangle the ways and understand them completely.



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