The other day I walked into a coffee shop wearing a T-shirt I bought a in Port Townsend on a self-designed writing retreat. The barista read my shirt, said, “I don’t get it.”
“Instead of hiring someone to do it for me,” I said.
“Okay, but is that bad?” she wanted to know.
Wow, good question! Not only do I get paid to edit, but the fact is that many other people have generously leant their creative muscle to my work, offering revision notes, reworking or inserting lines or paragraphs–one of my first creative writing teachers, Graham Hewson, revised the ending of the short story I submitted to my MFA program. Were the paragraphs he altered the make-it or break-it lines that got me in? Who knows, but I knew when to set any ego aside, bow to talent and experience and just say, “thank you.” My good friend Wes Pierce drove around Richmond to supply me with correct street details for a short story, “Shoeless.” En route, with his writer’s eye, he suggested atmospheric and story notes I gladly used. I could go on and on, listing all of the group help I’ve received over the years, recalling lines in my work I encounter and smile about because this or that friend inserted or reworked the line, and I still remember how excited I was at their improvement to my work. I spent this very morning evaluating an article for a client, providing its author with a to do list for maximizing the content.
Does any of this group effort take authorship away from the author? I strongly maintain it does not. Rather, it merely serves to remind us that while the essence of the story or piece comes from the author, when it’s being shaped for publication and has to target an audience, writing can (and frequently should) very successfully become a concerted team effort, with each of us turning to our community of writers and editors when we’re in need of their advice, creative chops, ability to fix a problem line or ten, cite structural mishaps or just hold our hand when we’re creatively tired and frustrated.
Now I want a new T-shirt, one that reads: I do my own writing stunts, but my friends are always there to spot me. Thanks for the helps, dear talented guys and gals! I’m humbled, impressed and grateful.
xo Laurel Leigh