Editor’s Notebook: Look what I just made! On writing Pride.
The circle closes. For the second time, I and my co-editors have published our final essay in the 7 Sins of the Writing Life series. With Pride—the good kind, Cheryl tells us, that Aristotle recommends—we conclude our celebration of the collaboration ten years ago that brought us together. Ultimately that collaboration led to the creation of Waterwheel Review, and we’re damn Proud of that.
Cheryl asks: In your writing life, do you experience Pride-as-self-confidence? Or Pride-as-arrogance? Maybe you suffer from Pride-as-undue humility?
I’m not sure if this is a sign of self-confidence or arrogance (it’s definitely not undue humility) but I’m with Aristotle and consider Pride in my work a virtue. Putting my all into everything I write is the key, I think, to why writing keeps me sane. It allows me to put to good use my perfectionism and tendency to ruminate. Of course I’m Proud of that!
Give Cheryl’s essay a read and see where you fall on the Pride scale.
I’ve enjoyed re-reading this series and applying the insights in each piece to my current writing life. Every essay still feels relevant. But in different ways, surely, given how much has changed? To put a bow on this project, I posed a couple of questions about the 7 Sins, now, a decade on, to Cheryl and Suzanne. To be fair, I replied, too.
Which of the 7 Sins has been your biggest challenge since you wrote these essays?
“Lust is equal parts motivator and taunter,” says Cheryl. “I have lusted to create my version of a writer’s life, and I’ve made it happen. But my pursuit has stifled my family’s financial growth. It’s challenging to continue pursuing work that doesn’t pay.”
Suzanne says Gluttony is currently her biggest challenge. “I could produce more drafts if I weren’t so hungry to work over the lines in my current one.” Her writing time is so scarce, having a draft of anything feels lucky, and she can’t let it go. “This one shiny golden draft exists—I can’t even recall how it came to be—and now I want to spend all my writing time digging into it, smoothing it out, expanding, selecting, lengthening, l-e-n-g-t-h-e-n-i-n-g.”
I’m with Cheryl on this one: Lust. In the ten years since we first published the 7 Sins essays, my Lust for All Things Writing Life distracted me too often from my own work. It took the long disruption of the pandemic to teach me that. In the last year, Wrath has been my biggest challenge, as I explain in my answer to the second question below.
Do any of the Sins look different to you now?
Cheryl sees Pride very differently because of the essay she wrote about it ten years ago. “Seeing myself in Aristotle’s ‘undue humble man’ was painful to accept.” Since fully processing that personal revelation, she’s used it to work through the intense feelings of shame that have been central to her poetry. “Shame is stealthier than I ever imagined. The journey has been long, but today, I can say that I’m Proud of the work I’m doing.”
These days, Envy looks very different to Suzanne. “When we first published the series, I didn’t have a book published. Authors with published books made me Envious.” Now she has three books published herself, and she’s seen how authors get their books published in a surprising variety of ways. “I feel like one of a dedicated crowd, and the Envy has dissolved.”
I have to come back to what I wrote here about Wrath last month. Whenever I’ve experienced Wrath as motivation to write short stories, soon enough the anger was displaced as I became engrossed in the fictional world I created. That’s how I used to experience Wrath in my writing life. But the Wrath that propelled me a year ago into a nonfiction project does not get displaced as I write, it gets examined and re-examined, expressed and elaborated, broken into bits and pieces and then rebuilt. Sitting with all that Wrath can be draining and depressing. The Wrath can take over the prose, too, so I have to be careful about that.
My final 7 Sins sign-off: May you indulge and enjoy all writing sins forevermore. And may you write well today.
In September we kick off our fourth season of this magazine. How that happened, I will never understand, but I couldn’t be more grateful, and I look forward to all the discoveries waiting for us in the fall. For now I leave you with my favorite line from the 7 Sins series, from Cheryl’s essay on Pride: “The writer’s eye never closes.” No, it doesn’t.