Self Editing

I’m working on a personal piece of writing this week, but the go is slow. There’s a dark scowling editor hovering over my shoulder making all kinds of judgements. Every time I get a few sentences down, he rolls his eyes. I’ve hardly got a full page done.

“Don’t tell that,” he hisses. “Don’t even hint or wink a knowing wink about it.”

I delete my words and try again.

“Stop! You can’t tell people about that!”

I try again.

“Put a smile on your face and play nice,” he warns, tapping the delete button for me.

I know better than to listen to my inner naysayers during a creative phase, but this guy has me completely blocked. He’s panicked. For me, or himself, and I can’t tell which.

His hands raise as I type my words now, just waiting for me to step out of his comfort zone. I tense against his criticism, and only let an edited version hit the page where he can see. The rest of the story is stuck in my shoulder area, sharp and brittle.

I keep typing anyway, but soon, something even more unsettling happens.

Those unsaid words begin to loosen up and drift piece-by-piece down my arm to my elbow. I type faster and feel a few of them gather dangerously close to my wrist.

If I don’t stop them soon, they will fly out of my fingers for everybody to see.

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My Literary Legacy

Growing up, I remember Papa telling stories at the dinner table. My grandfather liked to talk about his youth, but avoided his early childhood, which I know he’d spent with thirteen brothers and sisters, few who’d lived as long as Papa. His stories all starred himself as a young teen, as if that’s where his real life had begun.

In all of Papa’s stories, he was on an adventure. He would leave home in these tales, a smoker and a risk taker from a poor family. He’d thumb a ride out-of-town to find work where he could in a Huck and Finn-style escapade. Papa picked crops and cooked for cowboys. He fished and worked in factories. He danced and sang his way across the whole state.

Papa would laugh and gesture and came alive when he was a storyteller, so different from the quiet man he was the rest of the time. I got the feeling he would travel back in time and relive those teenage days in an instant, no matter what he’d lose in the bargain. Some days I think about my favorite years too, and wonder if they’ll be the ones I write about soon, or if I’ll keep those days to myself.

I know that my grandfather joined the army at age 17, but Papa never told me about the 17-year-old soldier he’d been. I never heard about him as a  22-year-old newlywed either, or learned anything about the jobs he’d chosen while he’d raised his small family. Papa clung to his favorite span of time when he told his stories, and never ran out of new things to tell me.

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Want to See Your Poems, Essays, and Short Stories in Print?

I can help you with that!

Besides being an award-winning writer, I am also a marketing coach. I teach other writers how to create winning query letters, format their manuscripts, find hundreds of markets for their work, and submit their prose professionally. If that sounds interesting to you, please visit my writer website. You can learn a little more about me, and read the details about my Market Coaching for Creative Writers program. I look forward to helping you.

Upcoming byline: my latest short story, My Closet, will be published in the spring 2014 issue of The Literary Review.


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