I learned in 2018 that there isn’t enough of me to edit full-time and write full-time, and thanks to a timely grant, some soul-searching, and a boatload of moral support from my better half, 2019 is the year to create some changes.
I’ve been editing manuscripts since 1999. Lately, it feels like work I started in a different century. And the younger version of myself was more rigidly structured than 38-year-old me wants to be. Almost two decades of working with other writers have shown me a few models of how creative work can be done successfully: the clockwork model or the cyclical one. Once upon a time, I thought the clockwork approach, day-in, day-out, write-from-7-to-11-a.m. was the only way to balance unpaid creative writing with running a business. I finished many drafts of a few novels, stories, and essays that way.
It’s not working anymore. Frankly, running a full-time business while doing a full-time graduate program created the sort of apocalyptic stress that you’d expect. It turned out to be a five-alarm blessing, blaring about the necessity of change so loud that I couldn’t just answer a few more emails and ignore it.
Since beginning an MFA program, I’ve fallen in love with the process again: the messy, heated, notes-everywhere, distracted, ambitious, obsessed literary multitasking that happens in the eye of a paper-storm of library books and unopened mail. The sort of process that pings between YouTube videos of storytellers and economic records from seventeenth-century Palestine and a couple of Scrivener files. The sort that depends on browser tabs and a half dozen workspaces on my Mac. The space where I don’t have opinions or answers, just absorbing questions about the craft. And that’s where I’m happiest. I’ve always been a little envious of my clients who allow themselves to lose themselves in big cycles of creation, incubation, and paying work. My goal for 2019 is to stop envying and just do it. I’m filling two weeks a month with editing work. The rest, I’m spending however I damn well please on my own process, thanks to a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation that’s funding a research trip to the Middle East and some periods away from work.
This all coincides with a leave of absence from my MFA program at Warren Wilson College. The program is going well, but I just finished a 50-page essay on how literary speculative fiction works, and I have a lot of writing that I want to do before I feel ready to enter the final leg. Some students handle this dilemma by signing up for an extra semester, but until I find a spare gold ingot rolling around in the back of the Subaru with the reusable grocery bags, the extra tuition is a dealbreaker. And it’s not like I need more time in school to teach me how to be a working writer. I know how: make the time and work on something. So I’ll be doing that at least until July. Probably all of 2019. Maybe forevermore.
Bless your heart if you’ve read this far. I imagine the only reason must be curiosity: about what this means for our editing relationship. Don’t worry, I’m not breaking up with my clients. I love editing–the task, the collaboration, the enormous blessing of being entrusted with the creative work of people I immensely admire. The choice to dial back on my business is not a “freedom from” decision. It’s a “freedom to” one: an urge to integrate both sides of my literary life, a plan to create balance, a wish to bring my best self to all my work. Logistically, this means that if you are thinking of hiring me to edit your book in 2019, be in touch now-ish. I’m already booked through early June. I promise, I’m not trying to gin up business. Last year’s waitlist just filled up a bunch of my calendar openings. I’m a tiny bit worried about how to fit everything in, knowing how many of you have projects in their final stages, and wanting to make sure you get feedback when you need it. So let’s talk. Check out my editing site for updates.
Career changes, new books, new relationships with the self and others… In so many ways, friends and clients are traversing their own big life changes right now, too. Whatever energy is swirling in the universe right now, it’s my bottom-of-the-heart wish that collectively, each of us finds a way to harness that force for good–and that we navigate our changes with strength and grace. Whatever you’re working on or working through, we are all in this together.