The posts and comments this week made me cringe, knowing how it feels to have to tell someone, no I can't write your book for you, no I wouldn't presume to edit your work.
And of course, I've been on the other side, and I know that feeling just as well.
Before I was a published author, I hated admitting to people that I wanted to be one. Let the word get out - often from the lips of my dear, supportive husband - and near strangers would give me that look. If you're a writer, I'm sure you've seen it: the patronizing smile that verges on ridicule. (Remember the scene in "The King's Speech" where Lionel Logue auditions in vain for the role of King Richard II before a smirking panel of ... snots? That look.)
Let me recount a nightmare from those "before" days:
I served on a church committee with - among others - an accountant, and as a committee we were charged with - among other things - writing a skit for an upcoming event.
When the writing assignment came up in a meeting, all the members looked at the ceiling and sat on their hands. As much as I hated to expose my dream, I lifted my hand just to shoulder height, but with the quietest thrill of anticipation. Wait till everyone saw what I could do with a story.
I did mention the accountant, right?
Now understand, this was a one-person assignment. Other people had their jobs; this was mine. But when, after hours of love and labor I proudly turned in one doozey of a skit, the accountant took it home. And brought it back. With red ink splashed so thick you would think someone had been knifed to death on top of it.
Trust me when I tell you, he'd ruined my work. He'd put in fifty-cent words (the more obscure the better) where two bit words were just right. He'd made my down-home characters all talk like members of parliament. He'd drained the life right out of my darling, and when he handed it back, he gave me that look, and said, "Everybody thinks they can write, but you know, it actually takes a lot of work."
I did know.
And now that my name shows up on books you can buy, people think I can take their manuscripts to my agent and get them a contract.
I have to be gentle. I know how they feel. I know how wrong people - even writers - can be. And best of all, I know how dramatically, and how quickly a writer's work can improve. Because while my skit didn't need an accountant, I'm sure it did need a good editor. I was not then the writer I would become. For more on that story, you might want to look back on a previous post, "Everything Can Change."
For now, let me say how proud we are of all of you, how thrilled we are over your successes, and what hopes we have for each of you. Do keep writing, if that is your call. Do keep coming here. And do tell us about the "accountants" in your lives.
We love to read what you have to say.