Lay it down: tips for working with writers

LAY IT DOWN Making art and writing can be a way of laying down a burden.

Get it out, and you no longer need to hold it.

Equip the reader or viewer to experience your art. An author’s note, introduction, or artist’s statement can help your work speak. The work starts living for itself.

If you’re in the practice of serving other artists—coach, editor—it can be tempting to “help” them. You want them to achieve their goals, and you have tools for that: templates, schedules. You can see where the piece could go, and you want to bring them there. You’re here to help.

We’ve been taught our role is one of service. “How can I help you?” can be generative, an invitation. “You are the authority on yourself and your work. Please tell me what you need.”

But even asking the question can suggest a power imbalance. The question can imply a problem, and the inherent suggestion is that “problem” is the artist. “How can I help you get this? How can I help you so you work with me better? How can we move your work into the realm of ‘real art’?”

What the other person might need more than help is acceptance. “I see you. I see you trying your best. You make good decisions. I hear what you’re telling me. I accept you just as you are, even if you’re not where you want to be yet. I see you carrying the burden. Lay it down. Or let me carry some of that burden for you. Let’s do this together.”

Acceptance of the maker can bring the artwork to new heights. Acceptance of the person can allow the relationship to truly begin.

Mary Oliver wrote, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” Acceptance continues the path, the commitment to co-creation.

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