tick, tick, tick….
waiting has been the posture of the week here at book-making headquarters. which, for someone wired like me, means clicking my phone every few minutes, checking to see if there’s yet a reply. forcing myself into tasks—say, cleaning the bathtub, sorting the wash––that will keep me and my antsy fingers away from the checking, reminding myself simply to breathe.
it might come as little surprise––after keeping you in the loop here as i’ve loped toward the publishing finish line––that the reply i am so, so anxiously awaiting is the one from the editor who will, ultimately, thumbs-up or thumbs-down that collection of words i refer to as my latest book. a book whose making has certainly silvered a few more of my hairs. a book i turned in sunday night, with hours to spare before the monday deadline. the first editor, a true godsend with whom i’ve been back-and-forthing for the last four weeks, gave it a solid thumbs up, but the one we now await is the one who a.) moves it along. or b.) asks for more rewrite still. or, i suppose, in the doomsday version (one i’m apt to imagine) c.) she simply throws up her arms and shrieks, “i’ve no clue at all why this was a book i thought worthy of printing!”
over the last few weeks, in this latest batch of dispatches from here in the writing garage (this appendage to our old house began its existence as a place where mid-century cars sputtered fumes, not too distant, i suppose, from its now housing a sputtering writer), i’ve pulled back the curtain a bit on just how it is that thousands of words find their way onto pages soon to be glued, bound, sewn, or whatever is the latest technology for keeping the papers from scattering. (imagine if in buying a book, you were handed an assemblage of pages and told to shuffle them into just the right order before you sat down to read; binding, clearly a nifty invention….)
one of the lists i’ve been making this week is something of a manifesto, of how––should i ever find myself in the editor’s desk––i might try to alleviate the suffering of a writer whose tender self and soul would be under my watch. it’s hardly a stretch to assume that most who assign themselves to the occupation of putting words on the page tend to find their hearts rising and falling in some measure with the way those words are met by editors and loved ones and even anonymous readers.
i’ve suffered at the hands of all the above. i’ve winced as editors killed my “little darlings,” the newsroom nickname for those snazzy bits of sentence or prose that the writer pretends makes him or her the star of the class, only to find the darling is unceremoniously flung to the cutting room floor, where it lands with an unceremonious thud. i’ve gulped as my father-in-law dialed long distance to suggest i might need a refresher stretch on the therapist’s couch as he thought something i’d penned right here on the chair, after our firstborn sauntered off to college, was far too depressing, and a sure sign that i’d teetered over the edge. and, back in my newspaper days, i had readers pen letters in what used to be a telltale chickeny scratch, often in recycled envelopes (in the digital age, it’s now hard to predict when an incoming email is going to explode with invective), all but insisting i leap from my desk in the tribune tower, run––not walk––three blocks east, and jump in the big cold lake. with stones tied to my ankles.
it can be not so pretty, this audacity to say what you think. or you feel. or what you pray. to put into words the otherwise ineffable. to sometimes see sentences there on the screen that you simply hadn’t realized were in you until they arose, one tap-tap at a time.
it’s one thing to put words to breath, in conversation over breakfast or lunch or sitting alongside a friend on a bench or a swing, and to know that those words won’t leave a trace––except in the memory of the one to whom they were spoken. to dare to put ink (or pixels on a screen) to those thoughts––sometimes half-baked, sometimes raw, sometimes with too many dashes or commas––is, when you pause to think about it, rather a bold expedition. seatbelts ought be required.
anyway, my manifesto would begin with one or two basics: don’t forget that the one on the waiting end is likely on needles and pins; offer kind words even when pointing out stumbles and weak spots; and please remember how daunting it is to play at this game. it’s not too much of a stretch to extend my manifesto beyond the wordsmithing game. it’s a very short list that might apply to the wider world as we seem to be slipping deeper and deeper into an age of too-little regard for the human species with whom we share this moment in time.
it takes so very little.
what would you include on a Manifesto for Minimal Kindness, editorially or otherwise?
note that in the snapshot above, compared to one shared a couple weeks back, the stacks in the writing garage only grew higher and higher as the days ticked by, one after another en route to that finish line...good news is the other writer who lives in this house wandered into the room last night, eyed the bowing shelves, the shelves all but groaning under the weight, eyed the impossible hopscotch of books, and declared: “you need more shelves.” so i guess my disarray just might save me after all.
Hearty congratulations, bam! And once you hit that “Send” key, does your brain start thinking of more things you wanted to include?
yup! you pretty much know how it works!!!!!!!!!!!! i need to be a stingy ointment on my keypad so i keep myself away from it! xoxox
Brava — for your commitment to difficult, emotional truths AND to the work it requires to share them as widely as only a writer can.
bless you, my beautiful friend. xoxoxoxoxox
What Cheryl said 👆🏼
One breath at a time, bammy. ❤️🫖☕️💐
big giant heart. <3!
Kindness means taking down the fence of my feelings.
oh, wow, that’s powerful…..i’m going to think on that one for awhile. bless you.
apropos of nothing above, and nothing other than its sheer beauty and my continued attention on all things ukraine, i am posting this glorious line of ukrainian poetry (with link to article in which i found it….)
To love in a time of war is
to wear earrings in spite of everything,
so the holes don’t close,
the ones you pierced with Grandma
at the old beauty parlor.
p.s. a dear friend of the chair pointed out how dear Madeline back there in her rocking chair, has fallen into a proper French faint upon realizing i’d actually turned in the final final. she queried, where was the bubbly????
i love careful readers of the chair, and even its wee little snapshots.
Oh, my. I went to the link and read the three Kateryna Kalytko poems. After that, I would answer your question by saying, read more poetry. It is the portal to awareness of the universality of the human experience. Thank you for one more illuminating connection. And both thumbs up on submitting the final final.
i’ve been reading ukrainian poetry for weeks now. this one reallyyyyyyyyy blew me away. so so simple, so pure. says sooo much in so few syllables even. the image is simply un-erasable.
“You need more shelves” is a declaration of true love.
❤ ❤ !!
Well, this careful reader of the chair happens to love the way you put ink to thought. Surely you’ll be hearing good news soon. May that good news come sooner than soon. xoxox
i sense this week will close with no news…….alas……