Last week my email was flooded with non-profit organizations participating in the “Big Give,” a one-day opportunity to donate online to their organization. By the end of the day I was calling it the “Big Dig” and deleting “last call” messages. This monetary giving made me think about what else we can give to our fellow humans (and all other critters).
For writers there is the professional “praise sandwich” – starting off with what’s good in the manuscript, piling on what needs work (lots of work), and closing with enough praise, hope and confidence to continue.
Better Than Money, or the Praise Sandwich
While the emails were pouring in, I read almost non-stop Brett Lott’s personal essays about writing and writers Before We Get Started: A Practical Memoir of the Writer’s Life. Lott is the author of Jewel (an Oprah pick) and eschews her name and calls her “the Force” which made me love him even more. He’s written many books, but this memoir for writers is so generous in its love of the craft and the people who struggle to perfect their own you can’t help but want to weep sometimes or leap out of your chair and go write. Here’s just one gem from the book:
“What knowing nothing means, finally, is that one must strip himself of all notions of what he believes he knows about the world and the way it works . . . now it’s new terrain, undiscovered, left to this new explorer, the one who knows nothing and . . . what this explorer will ultimately discover is his own heart, who he is in the midst of all the know-it-alls of the world.”
Imagine being so understood and supported. It makes you want to spend days with this author drinking in his professional advice and personal honesty.
Well – I will get to do this in early 2015. As a team member of Field’s End, a writing organization on Bainbridge Island, Brett is going to hold forth for two days for the likes of me and nineteen other lucky ducks. We don’t have the exact date or what the two days will target in the way of craft topics settled. But we’ll have Bret and his years of writing, rejections, humor, success, and teaching experience—offering hope to the ragged bunch we writers are. Meanwhile, I’m trying to follow his advice and treat even the smallest word as important, find the truth for my characters, and remember to note the “wonder and reverence” I feel at the end of time spent writing.