Thoughts from our Editor: September 2018

balances_commerce_186107About six years ago, my first – and, to date, last – novel, was published by a small press. Titled The Heart Absent, it was a story about Jack the Ripper in love, a tale of My Fair Lady gone horribly wrong.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Jack the Ripper crimes and began writing the novel when I was in my mid-20s. However, life intervened, and it wasn’t until I was in my early 30s a motive and a means to finish the novel presented itself in the form of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. In the program, in order to earn a Master of Fine Arts, I had to produce a novel deemed suitable for publication.

Seems simple enough, no? Open a vein and pour your heart out on a page, then on another, and another, until you’ve bled yourself dry and, yet, in your hands you hold a living, breathing story, a creation that sprang solely from you. Doesn’t sound so simple now, does it?

The truth is writing is hard work. I often tell my students that writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration and that the most difficult part of writing is actually doing it, the literal act of putting your derriere in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard. You have to treat it like a job and carve out hours in your schedule to devote to the task.

Combined with the realities of life – work, family, and other real-world commitments – maintaining a regular schedule for writing can be daunting at best and near impossible at worst. Like Dr. Lee McClain, one of my instructors at Seton Hill told me, you have to strike a careful balance between life, work, and play, and the only way to accomplish that balancing act is to learn how to tell people “no.”

I’ve never been shying about stealing or sharing great advice, and it’s a nugget I impart to my students as well. Learn to say no, I tell my own students nowadays, usually in the first week of the semester. Don’t be afraid to tell people “not right now, I’m studying and/or writing.” Guard your time like the priceless gem it is, treasure each moment for there will never be another like it.

Speaking of moments, the ones I spent as a graduate student at Seton Hill were among some of my happiest, which is one of several reasons I was thrilled just last month when I was asked to come back to campus, this time as an instructor of writing for a new generation of students. Five days a week you can now find me up at the crack of dawn, driving to the “Hill” to teach composition classes to Seton Hill freshmen before then driving to Uniontown, where I also teach at a community college. It’s left me with a lot less time to devote to Pennsylvania Bridges, and in order to remain the quality of the publication you deserve and have come to expect, I’ve been thankful for the assistance of my fellow editors, our amazing team of writers, and at least one good friend.

Walking this tightrope isn’t easy, but nothing worth having ever is, has been, or ever will be. Thanks for reading!

Until next month, Carla E. Anderton