Lish heavily edited Carver – or, as we might put it, listened to him in a hugely creative and transformative way; a way that can teach us about the art of listening in ordinary life as well.
– Lish hugely boosted Carver’s confidence; he made him feel the world was listening and that it was worth properly unpacking experiences. He did the editorial equivalent of what in conversation we can call looking closely into someone’s eyes with tenderness and sympathy.
– He stopped Carver from descending into local tedium. He took Carver’s experiences in rural America and gave them a universal dimension, ensuring that Carver is now famous from Korea to Germany as well.
– He stopped Carver digressing; he kept him focused on a central theme in each story he wrote. source
Reflecting on the process of writing Beloved, Toni Morrison discusses the ‘act of faith’:
The act of writing is a kind of act of faith.
Sometimes what is there — what is already written — is perfect and imitation is absurd and intolerable. But a perfect thing is not every- thing. Another thing, another different thing is required. Sometimes what is already there is simply not enough; other times it is indistinct, incomplete, even in error or buried. Sometimes, of course, there is nothing. And for a novelist that is the real excitement. Not what there is, but what there is not.source
Tessa Hadley talks about writing that occurs outside of your own invention:
The moment when a story comes together feels like striking into a gush of life that exists outside your invention. As you tug out one tiny detail—the jelly with mandarin oranges, for instance—others come up after it, out of the dark: the telly blanket, “A Man Called Ironside,” eating from the tin of condensed milk with a spoon. You don’t know how you know what you know about your characters and their world.