Dear Sage

I just had a talk with my inner editor. You’ve got an editor, too. Even if you don’t acknowledge them, they are at work inside you deciding what goes out to the world, what stays inside, what gets shared with the few. You get the idea. If you have an inner editor that takes control of things before they should, read on. This may help.

Monday, I realized my Editor had gotten out of control. I’d had this same discussion with her—my inner editor is a her—over 10 years ago, and thought that we’d worked things out, but she can really get out of control. Apparently, I needed to have another little talk with my editor.

There was just a simple agreement that I had worked out with the editor: Just wait till we bring you a manuscript. Till then, the editor is off-duty. Simple, right?

As soon as we worked out that little deal, I was suddenly sitting at the desk of my fourth-grade teacher in Perrin Elementary school. My whole life I have detested my fourth-grade teacher. Perrin was an old school, a very old school, built in the late 19th century. The floors were honey-colored oak. There were giant windows and 14-foot ceilings let lots of light into the classrooms which still had the hardwood hinge-top desks with inkwells in them. Most of the graffiti carved into the desks was older than the students’ entire lifetime. As soon as the editor was able to relax, all this memory flooded in.

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 This is what our desks looked like

The atmosphere of the place flooded in, the hollow sound of the great hallways and the hiss of the radiators, the shine of the uneven wood floors, polished to perfection by the bucking drum polisher wielded by our janitor. The life force of this place flooded back, a life with the sound of laughter, the changing faces of my classmates and teachers, love, child-like obsessions, uncertainty, fear—all of it flooded back in an atmospheric way.

Lynne Macneil who was with me for this experience told me there’s a Scandinavian word for this atmosphere: Stemning, which as far as I can tell means mood or ambiance accompanied by sentiment.

The thing is, my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Aiken, was a teacher most of us considered an evil witch.

A friend’s mom even transferred my friend out of the school district in order to keep Mrs. Aiken’s evil hands off of him. In her class I had to write “I will use my self control.” up to 700 times a night as additional homework in her class. Apparently I had none. Yet that was not the stemning that floated back to me. It was the atmosphere of everything else—the atmosphere that the edited stories were holding back—that is now available. It was very significant that I was not sitting in a student’s desk when these memories returned, but at the desk of the teacher.

I no longer hated her. I could probably hate something, but not her any more.

The richness of my life returns in these moments. As a story-teller, the newly remembered Perrin School is the goose’s golden egg.

I can see why my editor was afraid, though. There is an unbelievable deluge of images coming forth. Sensory input of all kinds—sight, sound, smell, feel, taste—are all coming in like a firehose. I can handle it, though. The wizard—and the artist—always creates from the chaos, not the void.

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