Writing Writers Helping Writers Write

We arrived back in the States on April 6: one day before my 41st birthday, one day after our third wedding anniversary, and not long after Japan’s earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami and shattered its Fukushima reactors—this last, relevant because we did spend a day in Narita, Japan, on our way back home.

I was unemployed for a long time. The jobs just aren’t available, and it’s not a matter of how talented my friends insist I am at my work: no matter how good you are, no jobs is no jobs. There was a brief two-month stint at Carlson, where I experienced a wonderful balance of the familiar (proofreading) and the new (social media engagement, analytics). Wish that could’ve lasted longer, but such is the life of a contractor.

Recently I’ve started at Medtronic, as the very positive job interview led me to believe might happen. People have asked whether all that “time off” (euphemism for unemployment) felt good, and at first it does: you want to enjoy a week off with your loved one, going to all the businesses that close before you get home otherwise, seeing museums, exploring new neighborhoods, &c. You have fun with it, but then the panic sets in and you calculate how long your savings can hold out if you can’t find another position. So I was more than ready to return to work when I found this gig.

Also recently, I’ve been meeting with a local writer in search of some advice. He’s a former coworker from Carmichael Lynch and on his last day he asked if I’d be willing, in my editorial capacity, to look over some of his writing. I was packing up to leave the country, at the time, so I couldn’t help out but when I returned and had no dearth of free time on my hands, I contacted him. We’ve met twice, the last time to discuss his writing samples and what I noticed in them.

This is an invaluable exercise for me. He’s enjoying it, he’s grateful to have what he considers qualified feedback on his stories, like how well he opens some of them or if there are certain themes he beats to death. As for me, I’m warily sitting in the role of instructor, but I had some awesome instructors at Metro State and I won’t compare myself to them. If anything, I’m parroting their brilliance, but it’s useful to me to hear these words of counsel come spilling out. Everything they taught me stuck with me, and now I’m able to apply it in a practical setting, spinning it back to a productive and active writer. Seeing what he does and analyzing his process is a valuable exercise for me—our styles aren’t similar but it gives me a new edge to approach my own work. It’s kind of like having a visitor come over and poke through your own toolbox, and being refreshed and surprised at what’s being shown to you, even though it was yours.

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