Solitary

Today’s guest blogger is Eirik Gumeny.  His short story, Twenty Minutes, appears in Issue 4.

 

A lot of folks say that writing is a solitary and lonely endeavor. That to be a good writer, one has to lock himself in a room and keep typing until that novel’s finished.

A lot of folks are apparently writing all wrong.

Certaintly the actual process of writing a story is more suited to that stereotypical lone author hunched over his computer, kept company only by the empty coffees mugs cluttered atop his desk. There are, after all, only so many hands that can fit on a keyboard or around a pen.

But the crafting of a story, the refining and editing, the — if you’ll pardon the poor grammar — making a story good… that’s a team sport as far as I’m concerned.

It’s impossible for a writer to edit his story well. Impossible. He can try, he can get it close, but that story will never be the story he wants it to be.

After spending hours writing a story, and more hours scratching things out and rewriting it and cleaning it up, a writer is then going to spend even more hours just staring at that story, wondering what the heck it was he was talking about in the first place.

It is inevitable that a writer is going to lose sight of what he’s trying to do. He’s going to overthink the story. He’s going to keep seeing things he forgot to actually put in the story. He’s going to stare at those words so long and so hard that they’re going to stop being words and start being blurry, vague shapes and then he’s probably going to start questioning his sanity. And if he doesn’t, he’s not taking his story seriously enough.

This is where everyone else comes in.

Every story — every story — needs a fresh pair of eyes before it can be finished. They could belong to the editor of a journal, a friend, a fellow writer, a wife. Ideally someone who knows the writer, knows his style, and isn’t afraid to tell him, “No, I’m sorry, that is truly terrible.”

After spilling his heart and soul onto a page — or maybe just snorting Mountain Dew onto his keyoard — a writer will never be able to look at his story and see anything other than what he wants it to be. He will never be able to see it for what it actually is. And what it is is probably bad. Or unfinished. Or really, really good… except for that ending. That second — or third or fifth — set of eyes is what moves the story closer to the one in the writer’s head. As talented as he may be, the buddies and girlfriends and writers’ groups are what clean up the spilled blood obscuring the poetry and make the jokes actually funny.

Writing is not a solitary endeavor. Not by any means.

Not if the writer wants what he’s doing to be any good anyway.

 

Photo by Panoramas