So, here I am, having just revised an essay using comments from a real-life editor – who is wise and helpful but still an editor who needs to give me feedback to improve my voice – and I get to Rebecca’s post asking us to write about the Editor’s voice.
Here are her questions:
How about you? Are you ever assailed with self doubt about your writing ability, or about the reasons for writing at all? Do you â€œfollow yourself around nagging and suggesting and complainingâ€? What are some of the negative things your Editor tells you? What could your Editor say to be more encouraging? How do you encourage yourself to keep practicing the craft of writing?
Wouldn’t I just be a dickens if I said, “Nope, I never have self-doubt. I just sit down happily every day and write without thought of critique.” Wouldn’t that just get everybody’s goat? And wouldn’t that just be a huge lie?
My editor tells me that what I have to say is trite and sentimental, that my writing means nothing to anyone, even to me when I really think about. My editor also quotes people from my life – blessedly not my parents who have always been supportive – but co-workers and friends or even people who have read my work. She (my editor is definitely a girl) says, “You’ve never really experienced much of life, why would anyone relate to you?” Or “You don’t know pain, so how can you write about it?” (not that I’m writing only about pain, but it is there). Or “This is sentimental glop.” Or “Who wants to read about religion or spirituality or God?”
Sometimes, the editor, like the lovely editor who emailed me this morning, says things like, “This reminds me of something by Lee Martin.” (Do you guys know Lee Martin’s work? He’s great. Of course, I can say that since this kind woman compared my work to his. :)) Sometimes the editor says, “It’s enough that you simply write. You know that’s what makes you be you, helps you find yourself again.” She could say more of that stuff.
And to keep myself writing, I just keep myself writing. I make myself do it out of some sense of obligation to a gift – the Biblical parable of the talents comes to mind – and out of a genuine desire to do it well, which I know only comes with practice.
That said, today I did not feel like writing – but I did it. And I feel good about that.
Please post on this if you’re interested. And I’d love to hear your comments about your battles with the voices that tell you you’re not good enough to do something – teach, write, ride a bike, be a parent. We all have these voices, and we all need to learn to temper them.