A Lot Like Life
At some point during the production of this issue I realized there was more to it than information for writers. In my early reads I was working with articles in various stages of completion (from drafts to revisions, before galleys and proofs), and some of the points connecting them were humming on a register that I could barely discern. But after some time had passed—after I’d adjusted my editor’s cap, so to speak—they began to ring clear.
Perhaps it’s because I’m at a point in my life when I’m questioning whether I really have it all figured out, as I was pretty sure I did in my twenties and early thirties. Possibly it’s because I’m a parent, which allows me ample opportunities to spout off about life’s supposedly incontrovertible truths—a platform that should make me feel wise but only reminds me I have a lot to learn. Whatever the reason, the more I read these articles, the more I gleaned from them not only lessons about writing but also about life.
For example, J. T. Bushnell (23) explains that one reason why readers occasionally level the charge of solipsism against writers—a curious accusation to make against those creating art that “encourages you to gaze outward, to consider other perspectives, to develop empathy”—may be that too many people are reading underdeveloped work. “That’s why revision is so important. In a first draft, I can’t consider the consequences of every narrative decision because there are simply too many decisions to make.” The same could be said of best-laid plans. Replace “a first draft” with “the next two months” in that last quote and you’ll begin to see my point.
In our special section on writing contests (53), debut poet Katie Umans humanizes the experience of having won one: “What winning the prize did do is seal off the first book as a finished work. No more tinkering, no more tweaking, no more writing new poems and feeding them to the manuscript like it’s an insatiable monster. I feel I’ve shed many earlier versions of myself as a poet by casting off that book.” And my list of reasons to pursue publication grows!
National Writers Series founder Doug Stanton (73) confirms what I had been suspecting all along when he describes a successful author event: “A big part of the experience is watching the author fumble to find himself and to be…human.” So here’s to the endless pursuit of being a better writer and, when you get right down to it, being a better human. May the one never stray far from the other.