Saturday, May 05, 2007

musings on the inevitable

I'm struggling to justify my existence at the moment.

Here's the quandry:

I purport to be a judge of other people's writing. I slice it and dice it and tell them where they need to move chapters, where they need to move words, where they need to give up the ghost on some heartfelt passage, and where they need to fuck off. I tell them that they need to kill off a particular character and they need to listen. I tell them that although they THINK their book is a mystery it should in fact be science fiction. I create their audience rahter arbitrarily for them and then give them a litany of ways to try to pander to that audience. I tell them I'm damn good at what I do and they need to trust me. I try to make them feel good about trusting.

Ok, that's nice.

Here's the problem--and I know there are many sides to this argument. How can I criticize the creative endeavors of others when I'm not creating anything of my own? I don't know how many times I've invoked the "oh, I know this stage in the revision process is difficult, since I've been there too! I know *I* need third- and fourth-person eyes on my work or else I'll just NEVER figure out what's missing!" speech. It usually makes people feel happy and reassured (I hope).

But it rings a little false lately. After all, when was the last time I wrote creatively? I finished my last project on January 26, 2006. Awhile ago, ain't it. Does writing in fits and starts make you a writer? Can I call myself (sympathetically) a writer because I would write, in theory, if I had time and ideas?

I know many editors believe that they SHOULDN'T write--that the creation is the territory of the authors, and that editors shouldn't try to mess on that field, but should instead specialize in critical (and relatively unemotional) analysis so that they can really honestly tell the author what needs to be changed without becoming overly involved in the "artistic process" (which is really the end of us all).

And this argument really makes sense. It is almost undeniably the right way to go. After all, it is very difficult to create your own material when you are literally neck-deep in someone else's---try reading a book and writing a book at the same time. Nigh impossible and highly inadvisable (my favorite English teacher once told me so, so it must be gospel truth). Now try re-writing the book you are reading while writing the book you are writing. Ok. So you see where I'm going with this.

So really I should decide to commit to my path and not fret about how I'm not writing anything. I'll be an editor, not a writer.

But then there's the psychological hump--can I commit to a future world to which I have made no attempt to contribute anything of my own?

What selfishness and delusions of grandeur torment us. How self-indulgent we can be.

My guess is this push-pull never resolves itself for the rest of my working life, and that most likely I am never published myself. But seeing the future doesn't make it any easier to accept the future graciously.

1 comment:

angelle said...

i feel like i have somehting to say about this, but i'm not quite sure what.

i think you should try and go and do both. it makes sense that you would feel the way you do, i think i would too. but what's stopping you? who says you cant strive towards both? it's HARD maybe, but not undoable! i'm sure there are editors out there who have their own works out there and such... come on, you can be super woman...