The Key

A reader wrote to me recently with a challenge. She’d been given an assignment by an editor but was having trouble finishing it, was worried that she wouldn’t get it right, was finding herself procrastinating when she should be writing. How, she wanted to know, does a writer deal with such pressures? It was a good question, and one I’d confronted recently myself. I rarely write for an editor other than myself, but an opportunity had come along to write a piece for Edible Seattle (the Jan/Feb issue – on shelves now!). Even though I knew and liked the editor, and even though the editor was familiar with my work, when I sat down to actually write my essay I felt the shadow of an old hobgoblin. For whom was I writing, the editor or me? She was the one, after all, who would ultimately accept or reject the piece. How could I write it to ensure it pleased her?

The answer, of course, was I couldn’t. So I wrote for the only person whom I could please: me. I wrote it by asking the only question I could answer, “Is this what I most want to say?” It is a kind of trick, admittedly. I enter the dream of the story I am telling, a silent bubble within which I am temporarily shielded from other people’s preferences and opinions. What a pleasant place. I go there as often as I can. And on that day I went there long enough that when I emerged from the dream and realized I hadn’t once thought of the editor, I knew she’d accept it. And she did.

I do not blame my reader friend for procrastinating. Who would want the job of trying to figure out what will please someone else? There are as many right answers to that question as there are people on the planet, and each answer sealed within the vault of their imagination. Fortunately, what pleases us is readily available, is ready to be unlocked if we but apply the key of our unique curiosity.

By the way: If YOU have a question, concern, or quibble you’d like addressed in this space, please, feel free to contact me. Answering other people’s question is one of those things that pleases me most.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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