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The Weirdest Thing About Being Edited is that You Can Grow As a Person

It started innocently enough. In the margins of the novel I am writing, one of my beta readers wrote: “I like this repeating thing where X. accepts that people’s opposing realities can both be valid, and how it seems like an enlightened/healthy concept, but X. actually applies it in a sort of dismissive, undercutting way instead (even if he doesn’t realize it).”

Um, what now? I’m glad my perceptive reader added that “even if he doesn’t realize it” part. Speaking for the narrator of my novel, if I may, I will say that no he didn’t realize that. He didn’t realize that his seminal trauma had effectively split his brain to where he could never really be sure if he belonged. And that when overwhelmed by the defensiveness that naturally proceeded from such a state, he envies the people who have been through worse than him yet who can still manage to act natural. If it comes off like he is judging them, it’s because it’s all he has left.

I don’t need to visit my therapist to realize this is all true of me as well. Besides, those appointments aren’t until Thursday. What I find most interesting about this projective exercise called creative writing, when brought before the eyes of a talented editor, is that — knowing this about myself now — I am faced with an understanding: If I want my character to grow along an arc, I will need to face that same arc along with him.

You might call it wish-fulfillment, but it is more substantive than that, these possibilities I can glimpse for both myself and for my narrator. The way each can heal the other. Risks will need to be taken, in fiction and in life. Stubbornness will have to be relinquished. 

At the end, I’ll worry of course, if this novel will get published. Or made into a series for Hulu. Or both. But for now I am content to watch the way art and living refract each other, pointing down an as yet untraveled hall of mirrors, to greater self-understanding and enhanced self-efficacy.

At one point my narrator asks, “Who was I supposed to be in this context? Will it ever get to the point where there is one me in every context?”

You and me, my friend, we have the same goal. Let’s stick together and see where this thing goes.

Out & About: There’s Room For Me (For You) Here


BA’s Madison Utley shares her thoughts after attending the 2023 AWP Conference & Bookfair in Seattle. 


There are two primary ways to experience a room full of people attempting to do some version of the same thing as you; I thought I might be intimidated and that my latent imposter syndrome could very well make an appearance. Instead, I was struck by a fully articulated sense of: there is room for everybody here, creatively. 

Something Stuart and I discuss often is the notion that your creativity is inexhaustible. As a writer, you don’t have a finite amount of worthwhile words inside of you. Trusting that in your gut allows the creative process to flow, uninhibited, creating space for the important work of revision to take place and ultimately leading to a stronger, more robust final result.

That concept felt like it had applicability as I looked around these cavernous rooms full of writers and editors who are making money or aspiring to make money doing this, who are published or want to be published, who are incredibly experienced or brand new in the space. There was such range in how people are engaging with the writing world and the ways in which they’re trying to make a home for themselves here. The realization was liberation.

Why the hell not throw myself into the fray? 

There is no right way to produce or engage with art. I left AWP with the clear sense that no one present had some concrete secret I needed to get my grubby little hands on and the confidence there isn’t some hidden curtain us newer writers need to peek behind for it all to make sense.

It’s really just about bringing a doing energy to your writing pursuits. You can draw inspiration from a room full of creatives, but not be constrained by what they’re saying about their own journey. You can look to the writing community for guidance and encouragement, but not for a list of rules to follow to find commercial or artistic success. This is about you, and owning that you’re meant to be in the writing world because you decided to be here.

That confidence powers creative thinking, powers creative living, powers art.


Owning Labels: If You Write, You’re A Writer

Inkhouse, an integrated PR agency, just released its third collection of employee-authored stories with the coaching and assistance of Book Architecture. A Tiny Break in the Clouds centers around the theme of introspection seen through three separate lenses: mistakes, adaptation/starting over, and joy.

This was the fifth content project put on by Inkhouse that Book Architecture helped to facilitate. Between company founder and CEO Beth Monaghan’s motivations for launching such projects and the time, energy, and vulnerability put in by participating employees, we’re constantly looking for ways to make this a better experience for all involved that will yield the strongest possible product.

Working with people through writing personal essays in a corporate setting helps them get used to the creative process in general, which is both an internal and an external experience. This time around, we redesigned the process so there’s more support than ever.

Inkhouse writers who opted into the project worked with a professional coach on the first draft, mentor groups helped crowdsource input for the second draft, and professional editors worked on the third draft. Essentially, it’s the three draft Book Architecture model in miniature: the first pass is about putting the material down on the page; the second draft is about making sense; the final draft is about putting it all together and making it good.

You might be thinking—I know some of the writers we worked with were thinking—”Okay, great. That’s a lot of support. But how in the world do I know where to start? How do I decide what to write about?”

The great news for them, for you, is that you don’t need to know. Showing up to the first one-on-one with the writing coach with nothing more than a vague “I think I want to write about…” or “I have this one idea…” is all that you need. From there, you can let your intuition rise and direct your next steps. As long as you’re then willing to put the necessary time in (and we all have 100 excuses as to why we can’t, that we’re just going to go ahead and toss out now) your work will get where it’s meant to go.

We tell the Inkhouse employees something I think many of us would benefit from hearing: if you write, you’re a writer. You don’t have to worry about being good. You just have to worry about showing up and being you.

If you don’t go through the process, you’re guaranteed to stall. If you do go through the process, it’s nerve wracking. But then you take the leap and when you put in the time, your work will get better and the excitement takes hold. All writers go through the same thing.

Whether a super senior member of the team or someone who is brand new, it’s a joy to witness the wonder on an Inkhouse writer’s face as they realize their slight spark of an idea has caught fire and suddenly, wham! It’s there, in their hands, in its pristine final form, in a beautifully assembled book.

By allowing themselves to own the mantle of writer, they created art that will last (as we all can).



Stuff We Love: Type Two Fun

…which “occurs when a task is difficult at the time, but feels rewarding afterward, often because it challenges the practitioner to test their limits and grow,” as defined here.

Team BA ran the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution, really. It was more of a: “Hey, we both like running, and challenges, and hanging out, so let’s do it.”

Madison was happy with her performance. She felt strong until mile 10, when her fuel tank plummeted to empty all at once, with no warning. But she was on track to get her personal best time, and so for the last three miles her thought loop sounded something like: this feels horrible and impossibly hard, but I intellectually understand that I’ve trained and am physically able to keep this pace until the end; if I don’t, it’s a choice. And that’s not a choice I’m going to make. 

I, on the other hand, was frustrated by my performance and had to do some hard self-coaching and critical training review. I crunched the numbers. I saw that for races in the past in which I ran a certain number of miles in the four months preceding, I was very pleased with my times. When I ran 80% of those miles in that span, I was pretty happy with my times. When I ran under 65% of those miles, as I did this time around, the outcome was not good. And I shouldn’t be surprised with a subpar outcome.

But, believe it or not, we really would both classify the experience as fun. Engaging with the process of living through a whole variety of avenues can reveal new strengths, expose areas ripe for improvement, and help develop skills already in place that are serving you well.

And so: we discussed, we regrouped. I signed up for another half marathon in June with a revamped plan in place, backed by data and my desire to own my best performance (i.e.. not just go out there and do the middle-aged man shuffle). Madison is venturing into new territory with a long trail race later in the year, confident that her willpower (and, you know, training) will see her through.

In running and in writing and in editing and… Team BA wants to be thoughtful about what going all-in means, and then we want to do it.