“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.” ~ Anne Lamott
Even when you think you’re done writing a book, you’re not done writing the damn book. It was also Anne Lamott who said “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first draft. You need to start somewhere.” She wasn’t kidding—though she might have said shitty draft.
I’m spoiled by the instant press I have had at my fingertips for literally more than a decade. I think it, I write it, I publish it. For this book, it took 35 days to write my shitty first draft, and then four months of near constant revision, pain, adding, pain, editing, pain, refining, pain, revising again…
Yesterday I finally hit a wall and realized I just have to trust myself. I admit, I didn’t realize that until I called my editor in a teary panic from the grocery store parking lot, and he talked me off the ledge. But he was right—I have always trusted my own writing, my own voice, and my own experience. The fact that it’s a book instead of a blog post can’t be any different. I mean, it is, but you know.
So I wrote what was real. I hedged up against the impulse to clean it up. I fought with myself to write what was true, even when it hurt. I met myself as I dug into each uncomfortable realization that surfaced. I fought the impulse to shy away from places where I found my own faults and I leaned into the light to find beauty I had always unknowingly stepped over . I found more than I was looking for and far more than I expected.
I appreciate the work of the myriad of people—and their are many—who make books a reality. They have helped me be a better writer. I also understand now why every writer thanks their Editor in the beginning of every book. Every. Book.
Your Editor is your lifeline during the crazy-making time of mining the depths of your life for your material. Your Editor is who talks you down because you can’t stop fixating on this one paragraph. Your Editor is who calls you from home when you hit the inevitable point in every book where you think your writing is garbage and you should just do the world a favor burn the entire manuscript. Your Editor is who fishes the sheaf of papers from the fire if you’re dumb enough to actually light the match.
I’m grateful my matches are all metaphorical.
And I’m grateful for my Editor.
(The book will be here soon.)