Monday, June 13, 2011

At The Heart Of It - One Lone Writer

by Sophie


It's become a big part of my outlook to think of the books I write as being the result of teamwork. From the evolution of the idea through the mad pile-on of the first draft, through editing for clarity and later editing for language, to the back-and-forth with the editor to tweak and re-shape, all the way through promoting and marketing, there is no single step that I do without the support, encouragement, and participation of others.

It all starts here, with my friends. A week does not go by that I don't see at least one of the Pens, and I truly mean it when I say I could not have finished any of my books - and that's going back almost 15 years, people - without them.

Then there's my agent, editors, publicists, and the army of people at the publisher, legions whom I'm only now getting a sense of. Authors often moan about the job done by individual members of the pipeline, but the truth is that I don't know how to do any of these jobs and I rely on each to contribute their piece: a compelling cover, streamlined marketing copy, subject matter that will appeal without offending, and so on.

All of this is fine with me. Working this way makes sense to me - my books are much better for the many hands that touch them along the way. I don't understand these authors who freak if someone touches their prose. None of us is that good. NONE OF US IS THAT GOOD - I repeated it for emphasis, because I believe that when we begin to have outsized views of our own abilities, we become brittle and our work suffers.


In the writing day, when I am inching forward with the story, I am alone. Searingly, achingly, echoingly alone. There is only room for one person in the cramped toll booth that is the story place; we stew with our thoughts and our dreams and our darkness and our flashes of brilliance, and we dab and shape and mold, creating the homely thing that is the foundation for the work we eventually hope to create.

I can do this in the company of others - I love to, in fact; in coffee shops or bars with a friend - but make no mistake: the process itself is solitary, no matter how much gossiping I do before, whining I do during, and drinking I do after.

This is, perhaps, the best possible world for the introvert at the heart of most writers. We have to create without the melody of other voices. Later, when the unfurling is done, we can - gladly, full of hope and intent - join the others, find our place at the table.


Rachael Herron said...

Oh, my god. This is gorgeous and true and just right. That's one of the best parts of writing: that I am so alone and NOT alone at the same time. (Also, this is true about Twitter. And Twitter is cheaper, now that I come to think of it...)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Writers do tend to love those alone places inside. Beautifully said, as ever.

When I wrote my first book, the plan was to write it with my sisters. The reality was that we talked about it together--a lot--but I did the research. Then when it was time to put the words down, there was only one session with one of my sisters. She contributed one sentence. It was an excellent sentence. I wrote all the others. I loved it. I still do.

Martha Flynn said...

You look so much like your daughter in that picture! :)

Mysti said...

I think that's my new favorite picture of you--focused not on one of the many, many people who you help and nurture and support every day, but on the story (well, it could be email from Javier Bardem, but you know what I mean...)

Thanks for being one of the people who showed me all the good things a writer can be, and has already helped me avoid some of the bad things!

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