Guest Post: Learning to Let Go by Kathy Brown
Today I have Kathy L. Brown on the blog with a guest post all about Learning to Let Go. I wrote a guest post on Kathy's blog a few years back and I'm happy to have her as a guest.
Learning to Let Go by Kathy L. Brown
I almost titled this essay “Creative Collaboration,” but in jotting down my thoughts realized my musings had a deeper core: how do I let go of a story? A story that I’ve lived with for years and years and has morphed and developed in so many unexpected directions. Publishing it is like sending a child off to school. I’m proud, worried, and grieving, all at the same time.
By way of context, let me share a little history. I spent the two years before the pandemic pitching my novel to agents and editors, both in-person at conferences and by email. A few nibbled, but no one bit until the spring of 2019. The publisher of Montag Press in Oakland, California sent me a brief email with those words we all long to hear, “Is your manuscript still available?” As it turned out, due to all the closures and stay-at-home orders, the staff had lots of extra time to read submissions. He was contracting books for 2021, in addition to those already selected for 2020. Fast forward to October of 2021. Now the brief email read, “We’re about to begin editing The Big Cinch.”
I don’t usually think of writing as a collaboration effort, other than the work of writing duos. I’m decidedly a solo-effort writer. Writing is a solitary pursuit for me, although I seek input from writing classes and teachers, my writing group, and beta readers.
As far as writing collaboratively goes, I see a spectrum that runs from the diarist, who gets little, if any, outside input to the commercial writer or journalist, who’s constrained by other people’s opinions, the house style, and the project’s brief. Most of us are somewhere in the middle—we live alone with the story for weeks, months, and years, but finally share it with hopes a smidge of outside input will improve the work.
Beginning to Let Go
Many stories never see the light of day, but when they do, our personal, private tales begin to form relationships with readers. These relationships are out of the writer’s control. That reader doesn’t care what the author meant by phrasing and word choice. Also, they bring their own life experiences to the plot, love or hate the characters based on personal preferences, and interpret the story voice in ways the writer could never imagine.
Once I’ve shown the story to someone else, the process of learning to let go begins, whether I like and accept it or not. I might pretend for a while to have control by concluding the beta reader is a weirdo or my classmates are too young/old to understand. But, deep in my heart I know the story is becoming more independent and it’s just a matter of time before it wants to borrow the car and twenty dollars.
A Grown-Up Story
Eventually, if a writer aims to publish, the story will become a collaborative effort. The story has gone out in the world and found playmates: editors, illustrators, designers, publicists, and vendors. It tells its poor old mother, “You’re not the boss of me.” That team of new friends have a vested interest in the baby, now all grown up, who was once your private darling.
And then comes the book readers (or painting’s viewers or music’s listeners). Most writers are also readers, so we know well the possessive impulses that we display toward our favorite art. And the freedom we feel to criticize what doesn’t measure up to our expectations.
Let It Go
This verbiage is a way to tell myself, and you, too, that all is well. My story and I went through a natural and exciting part of its life cycle. Learning to let go and let others into the story is good for all of us.
Kathy L. Brown lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA and writes speculative fiction with a historical twist. Her hometown and its history inspire her fiction. When she’s not thinking about how haunted everything is, she enjoys hiking, crafts, and cooking for her family. Montag Press has just published the first novel in her Sean Joye Investigations book series. “The Big Cinch is an atmospheric supernatural noir stories set in the St. Louis area. Sean Joye, a fae-touched young veteran of 1922’s Irish Civil War, aims to atone for his assassin past and make a clean, new life in America. Until he asks the wrong questions…”
Follow her social media platforms:
Facebook at kbKathylbrown
The Storytelling Blog lives kathylbrown.com.
Substantial portions of this blog were originally published at The Storytelling Blog, kathylbrown.com.