“A writer’s mind seems to be situated partly in the solar plexus and partly in the head.” – Ethel Wilson
I take a long, slow walk through the neighborhood most mornings, making conversation with the white oaks and the redbud trees, feeling my legs pump up the hills and relaxing as I come back down. When I get home, I sit at a table overlooking the backyard and read short-stories for a short fiction contest I agreed to help judge. Gladly, I am only one of several readers at the first level. My opinions will not make or break anyone’s career.
I used to think of the long, slow walks as purely a gut thing while I viewed reading other people’s work as a function solely of my left-brain, but I was wrong. Both activites take my entire body. When I walk, my head maps out the route which my body will take, but if my belly button doesn’t like the feel of a certain street on Tuesday, I’ll go a different route even if I loved it on Monday. When I read the stories, I review a mental checklist of the requirements: stucture, character development, setting, and on and on. But even a well-crafted story can leave me wanting more. If it desn’t spark some unknowable quantity, feed that place inside me that I cannot name, I cannot give it the highest mark.
When I sit down to edit a story of my own, I ask myself where the work falls on the balance scale. Is it all passion and beautiful images but lacking the skeleton of craft? Is it technically perfect, put together like a finely honed watch, but missing the last touch, the winding that breathes it to life?
Put your writing to the test. Ask yourself what it needs. Spine? Breath? Both? Especially if you are stuck, an honest appraisal or that of a trusted writer friend can take you a long way.
Nita(now everyone take out a number 2 pencil)Sweeney
(c)2005 by Nita Sweeney