My husband and I decided to try something a little crazy recently, so we went on a vacation. A real vacation, that is, not a trip to see family or a work-related jaunt. OK, it was a little work related, but when Mike scheduled a gig in New York City on a Saturday in April, we decided it was our opportunity to do something genuinely vacation-y and stay through the following Tuesday.
It was super fun. It’s also at least part of the reason I’ve been missing from the Internet for more than a month. I didn’t take everyone’s Kickstarter support and skip the country. I didn’t get sucked into a digital black hole. Apparently, it just takes five weeks for me to prepare for, execute and recover from taking two days off of work.
Of course it was during those two days away that I got the piece of work back that I’d been waiting on for weeks: the professional edits to Swedish Lessons. Though it was tough to get the document back at the very time I couldn’t dive right in and start working with the draft again, it was pretty cool to be reading the editorial letter on my phone while sitting at Caffe Reggio in Greenwich Village, where my husband informs me Dylan, Ginsberg and Kerouac would have hung out.
It was also fun to have some time to think about the editing process before I jumped back in, and to reflect on how my attitude toward editing has changed over the years. Way back before anyone actually paid me to write anything, I, like many writers, considered my first draft something of beauty. It was art. No one should touch it, lest they dampen its artfulness. Oh, the silliness of youth.
A decade into professional writing, I could not live without the luxury of having someone edit my work. You want to change something? Awesome. You want to totally re-write that last bit? Go for it. There’s something freeing in realizing that you no longer consider your work to be some sort of delicate, precious piece of art that could so easily be ruined by outside influence.
Instead, now I view my writing a craft. Like a carpenter making a table, I may want to add whatever embellishments I can to make it unique and interesting, but at the end of the day, it has to have stable legs and a flat suface, or no one will ever be able to use it as a table. Editors, I feel, are the ones willing to inspect it with a level and sandpaper and make it work the way it’s supposed to. You think that part is crooked? Cool. Go ahead and sand it down for me.
So I was excited to see how the editor would change my work, what she would recommend, and how Swedish Lessons could become better. I have to say that I am truly excited about the feedback, and I didn’t have to wait too long to start working on it again. Mike, ever in service to the completion of the book, drove almost the entire way back to Ann Arbor from New York so I could work on it the entire time.
And now? It is done. Moving on to the next phase. We’re getting close to having a real, live book on our hands here, folks.