I don’t think I’ve elaborated on this much before, but I am deathly afraid of flying.
It’s a control thing, mostly: every time the plane hits a slight bump or catches a wind shear I’m made pretty acutely aware of how little control I have over the vehicle I’m in and it’s currently 30,000 feet in the air oh god I’m going to die. That is my exact thought process. If the flight’s calm enough I can usually distract myself, but if it’s rough (like the Chicago-New York flight I just stepped off of) I’m pretty much just stuck rigid in my seat until we land.
I’m in the process of submitting a bunch of work to a whole bunch of places, which means workshopping and editing the hell out of things. Which means right now, my whole life feels like a plane ride.
Taking on co-pilots
Originally this week’s post was about the workshopping/editing process, actually, but that was before I got on the plane. I’m submitting a piece to a MFA program at the end of this month, so I asked a number of suitably (editorially) vicious friends to tear the piece apart. They did so spectacularly. Within twenty-four hours.
Despite being exactly what I asked for, focusing on things I knew were problematic, it’s hard to read through. I mean, really hard to read through. I had to take a day, remind myself I had friends who were so eager to help me out that they read the whole thing in depth hours after I posted it. Having that many people who care and want you to do well, that’s an amazing thing.
(Seriously, to all my editor readers: thank you so much you all rock please do not feel bad about this article).
But it’s the plane problem all over again. On a flight a few weeks ago (Sanford to Iowa), I had a seatmate tell me something pretty profound. “There are two times in your life when you utterly and completely give up control of your life,” he said. “When you go under anesthesia for surgery, and when you step on an airplane.”
Debatable, maybe, because I’ve got another one.
The hardest part about writing a book is making it one that people actually want to read. The hardest part about taking criticism is that you’re handing over your baby. With a proper publishing editor, you’re giving someone else final control over your work. Your baby. Your art. And workshopping a book, or even just getting feedback, is practice for that.
You’re putting your future in someone else’s hands. In cases like editing or workshopping it’s more minor, because you have the final say, but when you’re working with a publisher? To a certain degree you just have to make concessions. Which is why I’m so grateful to the people who give me feedback. Seriously. I don’t take on co-pilots lightly.
Here’s thing. I love to travel. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been across the country twice in the past month. I grew up on airplanes, so you’d think I’d be used to it by now– but it never gets easier. I’ve got medication to get me through it in extreme cases.
But like hell am I going to let that fear stop me from seeing the world. I can give up my autonomy. I may give it up tensely, with lots of silent swearing and gratitude toward the flight attendants, but I will give it up. And if I can get on a plane, I can suck it up and let other people tell me what to write.
So for everyone else out there who has trouble with this stuff: It’s okay. I do it too. I think everyone does. Writers are kind of control-oriented by nature.
We’ve got this, guys.