It’s writers day at my house. On the docket: critique a memoir, edit a novel, write an essay. I woke early, knowing my plate is full. I love doing this work. It affords me much self-instruction while seriously reading the talents of other writers.
I write in my loft, a quiet place at the top of the house affording me freedom from distraction. I cleared my email, organized my work surface and postponed responding to my thoughtful and informed daughter who spends huge amounts of time evaluating the political scene, and that of the world’s players, currently Brits who voted to leave EU, Cameron to resign in October, and the constant mess that is the Middle East. I need several sourcebooks to keep up with her. With a retentive mind and a tight grasp on the scorecard, she does know who is who and what is what. I learn at her knee, an awesome position for any parent who understands the magnitude of her child’s command of how the world works at that level. Wheels within wheels, for sure. Major players roll off her tongue with knowing ease. She reads well beneath the stories prepared for the peons, much like reading code. Somehow she sees the “big picture” without effort. I listen to her, feeling like I did when playing bridge, a card game that escapes me totally.
I confess to knowing her sources for information, but have trouble deciphering those, too. Rarely does she spend time with television’s talking suits, knowing what is delivered as information is well constructed pap. Chewed up, digested pulp for the masses. She checks in periodically to see how what she already knows gets spun down to pablum easily digested. And without any discernable nutrient. Her disdain for that crowd is palpable. I won’t open her mail today; elsewise, I won’t get my own work done.
I see the sun shining, tempting me to postpone this work, but I must show up tomorrow with useful participation for a writer’s first draft, hoping to shed light from my own experience on this road to publishing. Fresh eyes on another’s work often exposes trip points, where the reader can get lost, or finds what’s there to be beyond belief, or boring. The critical goal, always, is to bring a reader right into the midst of the action, so the reader becomes the character, experiences the story for himself. Tricky.
I particularly enjoy the input of other writers, how they see the same things I do, or not. What they think impedes the story, or moves it forward. How to assist the writer to enrich the material so that it leaps off the page and grabs the reader to the extent that the outside world goes away and what engages is entry into the true world of someone else.
I came away from this particular work exhausted. It’s a powerhouse of emotion held together with a storm of action scattered, needing harnessing. Reshaping a bit will hold it together. Tough to do since it’s a seat of the pants grabber hauling me into a world I know nothing about. I look forward to tomorrow. This is not like instructing the gifted painter to paint the Mona Lisa with a broad smile and lots of teeth. There’s a reason so much time is spent deciphering that enigmatic smile. Does she have a secret knowledge built of disdain? Or is she having a digestive belch about to erupt?
It’s more like tucking and shaping, finding the keys to make the story sing so you never want to leave the book, hoping it will never end. Getting there is helped by having a great story to begin with. This memoir already has that in hand.