I have a confession to make. Rather, we have a confession to make. Most of the writers I know, myself included, have a dirty little secret. We’ve had one for a long time, hidden behind the smoke and mirrors of the myth of the solitary writer hashing out genius from way up high.
Through our inaction, we’ve let this myth propagate. Sometimes, we’ve even played into it, stressing ourselves out with the notion of living up to the myth’s ideals. But it’s only a myth. A fable built on the foundation of omitted truths.
Even though one name accompanies our published works, we’re like our own respective Oliver Queens in that Arrow show all the kids are raving about. We have teams. We have people we rely on, working behind the scenes to coordinate and assess our ideas, our themes and our final products. Though we play it off as if all of our writings were concocted from a single mind, the simple fact is — we had help.
Just like Green Arrow. Just like Steve Jobs. Just like Pope Francis with his direct line to God.
We don’t often give credit to our support groups, either. We take them for granted, borrowing their time only to repay them by hogging all of the glory on stage. We call this “playing it cool.” It’s why you may see us up there wearing a very casual, plain shirt and blue jeans. This gives credence to the idea of the solitary creator, to the ingenious super human building worlds from high atop Mount Olympus.
George Lucas didn’t create Star Wars alone. His ex-wife, Marcia Lucas, was instrumental in the creation of the original trilogy. She was opinionated and honest, and she let George have it when his scenes didn’t make sense, hold her interest or just plain work right. The two famously had heated arguments, but it wasn’t until decades later when stories of Marcia’s involvement earned attention. Why?
Because she wasn’t there when the Star Wars prequels were made, and her absence definitely showed.
The point is, when we’re in the process of creation, we need someone in our corner. We need that nurturing hand, that camaraderie of an editor, a friend, a significant other or a family member. This person doesn’t need to have any special credentials or diverse skills (though having those little extras doesn’t hurt, either). He or she could simply be a great listener, letting us entertain with the oldest method of the narrative arts — the ancient tradition of oral storytelling.
One simple conversation could make all of the difference in a work of art. It could be the defining moment that unearths the emotional core of our pieces, the lynchpin that decides whether Obi-Wan Kenobi lives …
… or dies.
* * *
Teams make us stronger. As writers, we have so much to think about, we can’t zero in on every minute detail all at once. And when we’re world-building, these minute details start to fall through the cracks while we focus on the big picture. Having a team can be the line of defense that turns a good work into a great work. This is why JK Rowling had a team of editors, and it’s why it’s not a bad idea to have a confidante in our respective corners.
It’s dangerous to go alone.
Scott Waldyn is a writer, author, and entertainer based in the Chicagoland area. He serves as the co-founder and deputy director of Literary Orphans Press and the editor-in-chief of Literary Orphans Journal. When he’s not wielding an editorial pen, Scott writes saucy film reviews at Drunk Monkeys or hammers out a new work of fiction.