Trust the Process

Trust the process” is a slogan used by fans of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, though it has since become popular elsewhere in sports and culture. Coined during a rough patch for the team, it basically means “things may look bad now, but we have a plan in place to make it better.” – The Urban Dictionary

So yeah, the Sixers looked bad last night, but this isn’t about basketball.

Writers have rough patches, too. Maybe your work in progress is stalled. A project that started out with great potential fizzled the further you got into it. Perhaps you wrote your plot into a an unfixable mess and have to trash the whole thing and start over. You know what? This is the process. Working through all of the ups and downs, the mistakes and the disasters only makes you a better writer on the other side of it. That is of course, if you stick with it and trust the process.

The other day, a friend of mine who has been reading through all the Bucks County Novels sent me an email. In it he praised the first three books, loved them, in fact. But when he got to the fourth book: Tainted Inheritance, he noticed a change. Sloppy editing, spelling and grammar errors, a plot that dragged. He actually said he was thinking: “C’mon, wrap this up, Meg.” And you know what? He’s absolutely right.

Tainted Inheritance is my NaNoWriMo book. It’s the primary reason I will never, ever write like that again. I was so tired by the end of that marathon of writing that I avoided revision and neglected to have it professionally edited. And the result is a substandard novel. Now to be clear, I do think the overall story is good, great even. I just need to clean it up and pass it along to my man Kevin for editing. But the fact is, I do not have hurt feelings or wounded pride at the critique of my friend and fellow writer. Why?

There are differences between having a reader not like your book because it just isn’t their taste and having them not like it because it was badly written. I am not going to rewrite my story to satisfy someone else’s taste. However, if a reader genuinely points out an inconsistency, a flaw with the concept or some other sort of error, I am more than willing to accept the criticism and revise accordingly or apply the advice to the next project. I try my best to learn from the experience. And ignore the people who are just negative because they are mean.

This is one of those cases where the reader gets it. Valuable criticism and feedback are gold for a writer. It only makes us better if we listen and apply. Trust the process. It always works.

Everything is the last

I’m getting to the point now where everything I do is “the last” one I will do in America. My last Super Bowl, my last spring, seeing my doctor and dentist for the last time. I’m probably down to my final three hair appointments before we leave. You might remember that my stylist was also the one who encouraged me to write before I started.

So far, I haven’t been feeling the pangs of sorrow for these “lasts” until this weekend. I’m in the last season of shows at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia. It’s the oldest continuously operating theater in the entire country, founded in 1809. I’ve had season tickets for the past 15 years with two of my girlfriends. There are 2 more shows to go and that will be the last for me. They will find someone to take my place next year.

As I stood at the counter of the gift shop in the theater lobby on Sunday, buying myself a little something by which to remember the theater, I actually welled up with tears. I have loved this place, loved these shows, Broadway productions: the singing, the dancing and the serious plays. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Oscar Wild, Arthur Miller, Rogers and Hammerstein and Lin Manuel Miranda…

I hope I find a new theater in Galway. I’m sure I will. And I hope I get as attached as I am to the Walnut.

Photos courtesy Philadelphia NBC 10, Neals Paper, and The Delco Times.

The Commuter

A short story by Meg Sorick.

There were five of them in the car as far as I could tell. Three squished in the back seat and two up front. I could hear the music blasting through the open windows. They all were singing along. Only teenagers could be that happy stuck in rush hour traffic. Lucky dogs.

We inched forward a little and I thought back to the summer between my junior and senior year of college. I had two jobs —both part time, both of them waitressing gigs— but it hadn’t prevented me from going out every night of the week. All my friends were doing the same kind of thing —working our summer jobs, sharing cheap apartments, surviving on Ramen noodles and thrift store clothes, so we had beer money instead. It might possibly have been the happiest time of my life.

In the car in front of me, the song changed and the kids sang louder. The old Chevy positively shook as they danced in their seats. I sighed. Where had the years gone?

Finally, thirty minutes later, the log jam broke and traffic started moving. I changed lanes and passed the concert on wheels. Stealing a glance over, I saw a snapshot of the past. Five carefree souls not worrying about a thing. Just you wait, my little darlings. Life is about to smack you in the face. Student loans, credit scores, mortgages, car payments, insurance, utilities, taxes…

I pulled in the driveway an hour and fifteen minutes after I left work. This commute was killing me. As I dropped my keys on the hall table and kicked off my shoes, I smelled the scent of tomatoes and garlic wafting from the kitchen. I followed my nose. My husband looked up from the stove when I entered. “Hey,” he said with a smile. “Kiss the cook?”

I kissed him, but I was distracted by the scene on the television in the corner. The news was on.

“Accident on the Schuylkill. Quite a mess,” my husband said.

The scene on TV was shot from a circling news helicopter. A crash. Two exits before mine.

“Lucky you were past it already,” he said. “Or you’d have been even later.”

I recognized the old Chevy. Life is about to smack you in the face…

(Header image thanks to Philly.com)