I’ve been reading Betsy Lerner’s wonderful book The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. In her experience as an editor, she has encountered many writers who don’t know what they want to write about but feel compelled to write. She observes that often the writer has many experiences to write about but is looking in the wrong direction and so fails to see the “hay” that might be spun into gold. This morning, a friend and colleague came into my office with his draft of an introduction to a story that he has been fashioning in his mind for some time. I was so pleased that he came to me with it, and I was able to listen and respond, as well as to give him a gift of Lerner’s book, which I hope will be helpful.
“I do believe you think what now you speak,
But what we do determine oft we break.
Purpose is but slave to memory,
Of violent birth, but poor validity.” (Act 3, Scene 2, 162-165)
This is the beginning of another new year, the year in which I will turn 50. It’s a time to keep new promises to myself and others, a time to put into place traditions for my daughter that she may carry on in my memory. She will be the one to “light the incense” when I’m gone, as Andrew Lam so beautifully put in his short story “Who Will Light Incense When Mother’s Gone”?