The Company You Keep


“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder


Gratitude is the cornerstone of a spiritual practice. And the oxytocin high of connection is my drug of choice (not that I’m condoning drug usage). But so it is that I find myself in awe of supportive friends. Surrounded am I by extraordinarily talented women. I feel blessed.

Seriously if you don’t have any in your life, go now and get some. (Yes, that too- for the dirty minded folk among us.) Who me? I resemble that remark.

Where was I? Right…the support of women in my life.

My problem (one of many) is I have a tough time writing longer pieces of fiction. I seem to be stuck in the 100 word count zone. Not to undervalue the skill necessary of communicating an idea with a beginning, middle and end in 100 words. It takes skill. But I’d like to know I’m capable of writing more. I have two pieces in particular I’d like deliver and raise into full fleshed works.

I managed to eek out a “rough” draft (thank you my beautiful Dilettante for tough loving me). Everyone needs friends not afraid to tell the truth, to be willing to give your work their critical eye. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this. I only wish I could give advice half as good as I get.

I also wish I’d followed Stephen King’s rule of thumb. 2nd draft=1st draft-10%, culled the riff raff before taking up the valuable time of others. Even I can see on read through much need be cut. But I’m grateful for the time they generously offer.

My co-worker (FYI- her Welleslian English Lit degree is one reason many of my poems are so tight) implored me to ask the big questions; broaden my view of the story. She said “you need to decide if you are a reliable narrator”. “Of course” I said without hesitation. “Hmmmmm”, I waned.

She pointed out my writing was too linear. My current stories protagonist is a precocious 12 year-old with an omniscient voice narrating over top. CW said “You’re writing is very JD Salinger”. Hello? As if! Other than echoing his personal life as a recluse I have a ways to go to achieve what NY Times writer Charles McGrath describes.

“Stories remarkable for their sharp social observation, their pitch-perfect dialogue (Mr. Salinger, who used italics almost as a form of musical notation, was a master not of literary speech but of speech as people actually spoke it) and the way they demolished whatever was left of the traditional architecture of the short story — the old structure of beginning, middle, end — for an architecture of emotion, in which a story could turn on a tiny alteration of mood or irony. Mr. Updike said he admired “that open-ended Zen quality they have, the way they don’t snap shut.”

But one can dream. And I think it’s incredible having friends’ way smarter than I am. Ones that hear what I was aiming to convey- a “sympathetic understanding of adolescence, the fierce if alienated sense of morality and distrust of the adult world.” Ones that know I yearn to write an irreverent journey of soul and the struggle to find self. Ones who know me well enough (out in the real world) to question the prominent role I gave the fictional parents when in real life mine are “bit players”.

“Can you make the reader come to your conclusions in retrospect without spoon feeding it to them?” Whoa! I wonder. Can I?

As Stephen King says “the object of fiction is…..make the reader welcome…make him forget, whenever possible, that he is reading a story at all.” He goes on to say “you must be able to describe it, and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition.” Can I tap into another’s autobiography in my writing? Project a deeper intimacy into my words, create ease.

Lastly she pointed out her favorite bits (in yellow highlighter) involving questions of faith, feeling alien and trying to know oneself. Could I draw this thread throughout the piece? Flesh them out. Play on the devil versus God inside us. The bigger questions, “Can you know anyone if you don’t know yourself?” kind of riff.    *mind blown*

 Can I?   I plan to try.    “There is no try grassphopper, only do” I hear a friend whisper.

This is the grace of having a support group of woman to push you along. Challenge you to reach for your edges and hopefully far beyond.  Albert Schweitzer wrote “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. “I have this circle. I am filled with the women that hold me up and rekindle my passion for life.

11 thoughts on “The Company You Keep

  1. Pingback: Dungeon Prompts – Season 2, Week 10: Dreaming Big | The Seeker's Dungeon

  2. Such an insightful article! Being that I haven’t met anyone yet to give me the kind of feedback you’re receiving, it’s very helpful to read your experiences and apply the lessons to my work. I especially loved your contemplation of conveying the meaning of your work without spoon feeding it to your readers. I definitely struggle with over explanation.
    Thank you again for your wonderful articles, and I send my deepest sympathy to you and your family for your Aunt’s passing.

    • Adelie- I am truly blessed for the amazingly talented women I have in my life. Many of whom I’ve met through the internet. Much like we have. And I would gladly share any insight I obtain. I believe we only make each other, as artists, stronger. The collaboration of artists is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

      The over explaining piece hit me too, square between the eyes, 6th chakra territory. I’ve tried to make a game of it for myself. Try to be what I consider subtle and then wait to see if someone draws the connection. It’s fun.

      Thank you for the blessing regarding my Aunt.

  3. Dana, I like the sentence ‘describe it in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition’ – I may have a go at writing like that. If I can… no, I can! I can! Positive thoughts now!

  4. As I read this, I thought of the saying “Life is a journey, not a destination.” While you almost certainly will reach the destination (publishing your book) it sounds like you will have a lot of special moments along the journey. I’m glad you have so much support from people who care for you and who also have the knowledge to give you helpful feedback. Enjoy the ride! And thanks for participating in the Prompt.

  5. Pingback: A Footnote that Deserves to be so much more………. | DCTdesigns Creative Canvas

  6. Lots of great advices here. Truly, the company we keep can make all the difference in our lives. Are you going to publish this story that your working on on-line, or is it for another situation?

  7. Pingback: Dungeon Prompts – Season 2, Week 9: Gratitude | The Seeker's Dungeon

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