I don't know if it's because it's the start of a new year, but I've had a lot of soul-searching manuscripts cross my desk this week.
One of them literally described what a soul is in scientific terms.
Before Christmas it was a lot of religious stuff, but now it all seems to be about who we are. And sometimes God is included in the conversation.
They've all been interesting reads, coming from different places and different points of view. Each one has had at least one sentence that I have felt states what I'm thinking better than how I've been thinking it.
I love it when that happens.
In the last few years I have come to the conclusion that writers are either wildly generous spirits...or evil with a keyboard.
There are writers who are encouraging and will do anything to help other writers in their journey - probably because they recognize that a writer's journey is never done and, like any other art, it's never perfect. I've been fortunate enough to come across several of these angels who probably have no idea that the emails we exchanged throughout the years changed the course of my career.
Then there's the other half.
There's a quote in the movie Midnight in Paris when the main character asks Ernest Hemingway to read his work and Hemingway immediately says, "I hate it."
The other man replies, "But you haven't even read it."
That's when Hemingway says a very true statement about writers: "If it’s bad because I hate bad writing. If it’s good I’ll be envious and I’ll hate it all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer."
I went to a writers' group several years ago, hoping to get some inspiration. I love a good writing prompt and hearing the many directions it can go with other writers. I gave this group several chances until I decided...
...they were just mean.
Mean-spirited. They loved nothing more than to tear work apart (and not in a fun way), completely ignoring what the writer was trying to say and focusing on one word they thought could be better. This discussion could take an hour, with each person putting in their useless two cents.
I was reminded of this group the other day when, I'm embarrassed to say, I had been looking at manuscripts all day and then decided to work on my own. I was so tired at that point I could not remember if my character should be "pouring" over the book she was reading or "poring."
I should have just given up.
But I got online to Google it, of course, and ended up on a discussion page where someone else had asked the same question.
The answers to the question ranged from "why in the world would you use such a boring word?" to "you shouldn't be writing if that's all you can come up with." One person wrote a paragraph on how the word "studying" would be a much better choice and it took me at least five minutes to scroll down and find the actual answer to the question.
The poor (pore? pour?) girl who asked the question is probably an accountant by now.
Writing, as with many other things, is a hard thing to pursue because it falls under the "dream" category. Many people dream of doing it and when you start dreaming about something it becomes very personal.
I'm very careful with the manuscripts I read because - even if it's an idea I don't agree with or may not understand - someone has taken the time to write it, to fulfill a dream, and is looking for validation from someone.
Aren't we all? Isn't that why our children can't wait to show us a picture they've drawn or the good grade they got on a test? We can't wait for someone to taste the meal we've slaved over or congratulate us on the project we excelled at at work?
I've been wondering if, in the manuscripts I've been reading this week that involve soul-searching and finding our passion, the underlying theme to all of them is generosity of spirit; going out into the world with good intentions that don't involve a personal agenda.
How would the world change if we all did that?
(Does anyone think Donald Trump might read this?)