Friday, March 18, 2011

How Plumbing is Like Writing (and How Plumbers are Like Editors)

The other day, our kitchen drain clogged. Like, no drainage whatsoever.

It was ugly.

Really ugly.

Dishes sat for days, my husband and I threw up our hands, and a Rooter guy said a leak was lurking. We were stressed.

The next day (today) whilst the plumber was making my pain go away, I had time to think. Do you tend to get philosophical under stress, or is it just me?

I was thinking about how plumbing is like writing. Stay with me here.

1. Sometimes you'll be going along just fine, writing a wonderful story or whatever, and your inspiration will slow. And then stop. Sort of like my sink.
2. No matter what you do, you can't get it started again. Your plunger breaks. Your computer crashes (or you hit it). You pull out your hair.
3. Your friend tells you a little trick she learned on TV, and it works... sort of. You go online and look up websites, videos, etc. Eh. Really, you need something more. You need... a professional. You are hesitant, because professionals cost money. And not all professionals are "good" and "honest" and well, you just haven't called in a professional before.
4. But you need them. So you call an editor (plumber) and have them look at your work. You choose one you KNOW will be critical and tell you what they really think. Because while you like praise (oooh those old 1930s pipes are so... vintage!), what you like better is progress (that pipe is ugly and has rust spots).
5. The editor/plumber gives you an estimate. "You should do this, because it will help build suspense...."
6. They come back the next day and help you figure it out. Iron out the details. Not because you didn't have it in you (you could have figured it out, but it would have taken too long and been completely frustrating), but that this professional had the tools and skills to get er done.
7. You pay them some of your tax return money, but you are so happy.

The truth is, there is no one way to write something (the same could be said of plumbing). I think that is what gets some writers frustrated. It's not clear cut, and there is no magic formula to get you from A to B. You pretty much get to decide. Having so much freedom is scary. "Will this tangent get me the results I want? What results do I even want?"

It's sort of like home ownership. Every home is different, and it's your house. You can do what you want with it. So where do you start? What do you do half-way through? How will it end? Where is the plumber???

Don't feel like you are giving up by hiring an editor. Especially a good one who knows what they are doing.

I got lucky and was recommended a great plumber who not only knew what he was doing, but he was a fast worker. In just three hours he had put in a new line from the kitchen to the basement, capped off the old leaking pipe, plumbed for a basement bathroom sink, and plumbed and installed a wash bin next to my washing machine.

I am so happy. So happy. Yes, I even used my new wash bin today to wash my little boys' dirty trucks (pictured above).

There are good editors out there. Even the best writers have editors. An editor can be one of the best investments you make for your manuscript. Not only because of their skills, but because they honestly want to see your work be better.

I have edited several manuscripts, and even helped a few people who were stuck (clogged, you could say) and needed a little coaching. While it is "work" most of the time it is fun. I am not sure if my questions/comments are what helped, or perhaps it is the magic that comes of collaboration and shared enthusiasm for writing, but it's so fun to see the author get back into their grove! Things start flowing again, and the new ideas (or pipes) give way to a beautiful end.

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