In theater, music, dance, the artist knows where she stands. Writers…we’re different. We dwell in a land of isolation. And instinct. And belief in the moment. We strive and we worry. In private. In silence.
We are, in our work, voices that cry unheard in the wilderness of our heads. We shout, and listen for the echoes to come back. We have no way to know whether we’ve succeeded in what we’ve tried to do, except through what we feel.
Until someone reads us.
Today, I heard the echoes that came back out of the silent darkness–and the voices, for once, were not my own. In e-Salon this morning, two reactions from people whose critical eyes I trust implicitly. One came from Donna, the first reader to finish Everything first page to last; the second from a longtime friend whose reading is in progress. Two reader-colleagues from whom I can count on for frank and honest opinions.
Two sets of impressions shared. Two raves.
I am still smiling.
I never expected that our artists’ discussion hour would turn into, as Marc later called it, “Lynnapalooza”, an hour of unqualified praise. I never expected their follow-up…tough questions about the nature of writing, asked, I was told, because I’d better get ready for the kind of questions the NPR interviewer will ask (Marc, from your mouth…)
To have the labor of so many solitary hours referred to as “world-class writing”…to have a new and cherished writer-friend call it “a book I wish I’d written”: I could not have hoped to hear better.
The writer is never quite free of doubt. For us, inner balance is a shaky and unreliable thing. We cannot know with certainty that our intentions of plot and craft will be realized in what we do. When the hard-won elements of style and rhythm, the length of chapters and the formation of sentences and the complex nuances of characters are read back to us conveying exactly what we meant…when the comments come from people who have read them carefully and attentively…I don’t believe that there is anything better in the world. It is the moment of love realized.
The writing begins and fills us. It ends and empties us out. Into the emptied space, readers’ reactions fill a world; they put an energy back into a space where only hope lived. And the gratification, the gratitude—it’s fleeting.
We love what we heard. We wanted it. Needed it. We hope to earn more of it. And here’s the truth: The lovely, terrifying, confounding thing that is our work is a slate erased by finishing. Our quest will ask us again to summon the same dedication, worry, effort. As soon as the next book starts.