The Prompter Room

For Friday, August 3, 2018:

 

[The] willingness to look at the transitory nature of existence [is] not pessimism but absolute realism: life is to be taken at the tilt, you do not have forever, and therefore why wait? Why wait … to become a faithful and intimate companion to that initially formidable stranger you called your self?

David Whyte, THE THREE MARRIAGES: WORK, SELF AND RELATIONSHIP

 

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The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, February 20, 2018:

 

When we are self-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we also escape our self-conscious selves.

Madeleine L’Engle, GLIMPSES OF GRACE: DAILY THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

The Prompter Room

For Friday, October 13, 2017:

 

Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people-it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others. Community does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people-it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.

Parker Palmer, A HIDDEN WHOLENESS: THE JOURNEY TOWARD AN UNDIVIDED LIFE

 

 

The Prompter Room

For Wednesday, May 18, 2016:

 

“The accomplished hermit stays in the town; the immature hermit hides in the mountain.”

Zen koan

Some decades ago, advice columnist Ann Landers responded to a question about loneliness and being alone with the statement that one does not equal the other.  She went on to say (I’m paraphrasing) that if you don’t like yourself enough to be alone with yourself for half an hour, then few others will either.

It makes sense, then, that immature hermits don’t realize they can’t lose themselves in the paucity of company in the mountain.  Accomplished hermits know they don’t need to lose themselves in the town.

A familiar stereotypical image of writers, of course, is that we are solitary, reclusive, or eremitic folk.  Many may be one or more, but there is a big difference among the three types.  We tend to work or live by ourselves, solitary but not necessarily alone – family, neighbors, or colleagues are frequently nearby.  On the other hand, a recluse is usually one who removes him/herself from people and doesn’t want to interact with people, sometimes going to great lengths to keep others away.

Mystic hermits such as Dame Julian of Norwich and the Desert Mothers and Fathers actually welcomed company when it came around and were as hospitable as their circumstances allowed.  They knew the point of going off alone is not to lose oneself.  The point is to find the best of one’s self.

Usually that is done in community, working out and through our difficulties and differences in such a way that benefits both and all parties.  At the same time, though, we must work through the darker, uncomfortable parts of ourselves, and often that means taking what I call ‘hermit time’ as we live and work to find those places.

This hermit, for instance, always struggles to reconcile myself to the noises and disruptions of the town – such as the neighbors’ leafblower that whines all day at least once a week for three seasons of the year, and delivery trucks, and loud cars – while, at the same time, I enjoy the people around me.  I love getting to know people, about their lives.  Just this morning I enjoyed meeting two evangelists who came to the door.  We had a good, substantive conversation – so much so, the two women asked if they could come back.  I look forward to seeing them again so we can talk some more and I can get to know them better.  These are, after all, the instances from which we often glean fodder for our writing.

We don’t need to hide in the mountain for a mountaintop experience.  As much of a hermit as I tend to be, some of my own best ‘mountaintops’ have come when I’ve been in the company of others.  Other people are where we most often find the Other, which will – when we put in the effort to make it so – lead us to that place of otherness within ourselves that we want to spend time with.  Even Ann Landers would want to be with us then.

That Horn You Hear is Mine

Note: This is more a reminder to myself than blatant self-promotion.  It’s something of a written ‘selfie,’ I suppose, so read with that in mind, please.

I usually shy away from using the pronoun ‘I’ to start anything I write, but today I’m going to use it on purpose because I’m going to blow my own horn.

I do that even less than I start my work with … you know … but here’s why I’m doing both in this post: I’m a damn good editor.  There, both ‘I’s and the horn in one sentence.  In bold italics, too.  Wow!

I started thinking of this last week. I was in the hospital sleeping off (kind of) the general anesthesia I’d had earlier on Tuesday for a catheter ablation and, for some reason, I started thinking of all the people for whom I’ve served as editor.  Then I started to recall all the different projects they have shared with me.  This train of thought was inspired, I believe, by the teamwork of all the medical staff who worked on and with me for the procedure: the surgeon, of course, but also — and especially — the pre-op, OR, and post-op nurses and nursing assistants, the lab folks, the food service and housekeeping staffs, even the pre-op registrar.

We all need a team around us as we work — family, friends, colleagues to support and encourage us in our solitary writing times.  As an editor, too, I prefer to work as a team with each particular author.  I don’t, and won’t, work alone with another’s words.  I cannot presume to give voice to another’s words and vision on my own, and so I relish the opportunity to get to know each author, to communicate with her on a regular basis, to make suggestions for him to consider, to offer ideas for us both to try together.

As I thought of all the years I’ve done this editing gig — this work that I love, and all the people, all the projects and manuscripts I’ve worked with  — I realized that I am a team myself, too.  The majority of good editors are, and we have to be, but it’s according to a different definition of ‘team.’

This team knows how to edit Steampunk stories, vampire novels, poetry collections, humorous and spiritual memoirs, academic papers and dissertations, essays and other creative non-fiction, fantasy and mainstream short stories, even pastoral theology for the various intended audiences because I have written in all of these — and other — genres.  I know how to spell and punctuate according to British, Australian, Canadian and American customs from a lifetime of reading and studying a wide variety of world literature from the earliest of days to last week, along with the most up-to-date journals and manuals.   In other words, then, I am backed up by the sometimes-centuries of unseen writers who have gone before me, on whose shoulders I am privileged to stand, and what they’ve taught me.

I am beyond grateful.  I am also well aware that my own writing may not — and in some cases, does not — compare with some of the writers I’ve read over the years.  The important thing in my teambuilding, though, is that I’ve tried my hand at the different genres. I made it a point to stretch myself, sometimes going beyond my comfort zone (as when I wrote zombie and vampire stories), for my own benefit, but especially to improve my editing work.

That’s what teams do best: we encourage each other to reach beyond what is normal, what is usual.  I’ve found that because I’ve done so myself, I can do so for others as well.  Together, then, our work ensures my clients that their words are in good hands. They can entrust their words to me because I am a damn good editor.