What makes you squirm as a writer or editor? For me the answer is succinct: interruptions.
Just inside my home office door is a welcome mat that is the opposite of welcoming. It says (also succinctly): “Leave.” On the doorknob is a wacky zebra-striped pillow door hanger with pink feathery fringe. It reads: “Go away.” I’ve also made a habit of picking up “Do Not Disturb” signs from hotels. I have two favorites. One has big block letters: “NO.” The other is in Arabic from my reporter days filing from Iraq. It’s the most polite of them all: “In residence. Privacy required.”
My family and other drop-in visitors ignore all this signage. So I squirm a lot in the course of a workday. It comes with the territory.
Throughout this issue of The Writer, recurring themes are: what works and what doesn’t for the novelists, reporters, poets and nonfiction writers whose voices are represented here. Like any worthy mystery, thriller or suspense (genres we lean toward in the month of October), the act of writing is filled with elements that make us squirm: deadlines, the blank page, rejection, taking out the trash, picking up the kids and, yes, interruptions.
To survive as creative people, we take risks. We stay up late. We teeter between worlds. Nearly every writer in this issue refers to the persistence you must have to be a writer. You have to believe, have to have gumption and passion. Squirming is part of survival.
That reminds me of a comment made by the poet Philip Booth. “I think survival is at stake for all of us all the time,” said Booth. “Every poem, every work of art, everything that is well done, well made, well said, generously given, adds to our chances of survival.”
Philip was a friend, and sometimes on his walks around town, he would stroll up my driveway to my window, which is always cracked three inches in the summer. He’d lean against the house. We’d talk casually through the screen about the work of the day, a poem he might be working/walking through or maybe the weather. Unlike most interruptions, visits from Philip were inspiring. Which is the other tricky part of our work: A deadline can propel you. A blank page can ultimately inspire you. A break to do the dishes can rest your mind. A “generously given” interruption by a poet can refresh your soul.
It’s possible that that which makes us squirm also makes us stronger. We hope you enjoy this issue of the magazine and that you find herein connection to the challenges and successes of the larger writing community.