Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Help (The Good Kind)

Shel Silverstein might be my favorite philosopher.*
(Reader: "Huh? Isn't he a children's poet?" The answer: Yes, but bear with me.)

Silverstein's darkly funny, unpredictable descriptions of life ring true to experience and keep me hopeful in the face of its daily pitfalls.

One of my favorite pieces, "Helping," appeared in Free to Be You and Me.

Writers need to become well-versed in the necessity of asking for and graciously accepting help.

I knew my agent would be great for my writing because he loved the story and he "got it," when we discussed the full arc of the series he made suggestions for the plot that I'd already written (but he hadn't yet read.) Even so, engaging another person (other than my critique partner) in the revision stretched the boundaries of my comfort zone.

As much as we long for public acknowledgment and that fabulous "yes!" from an agent, once your work is out there it's no longer yours alone. Editing becomes a shared exercise and investment of time and effort.

My agent's ideas are fabulous and reflect how much he understands my writing and the story I'm creating, so when I wrote the additions he'd suggested they took the novel to a new level and I was thrilled. Scenes that hadn't existed prior to our conversations have become some of my favorites. But that doesn't mean that making the changes to a book I'd submitted as "complete" was easy.

Without help from family and friends (who support, love, and believe in us), crit partners (who help us through the rough patches in writing), and agents & editors (who bring us to the finish line), writers would be lost at sea without a compass.

Don't be afraid of help. As my yoga teacher reminds us in each class during the balance sequence: "Don't be afraid to fall, everyone falls. When you fall just get right back in it. This isn't about perfection, it's about progress."

*My one exception to Silverstein's work is "The Giving Tree." I hate this story, it's about an abusive relationship - I realize that's a controversial statement, but it is true.

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