It is a sad week for A Penny in the Well. The end of an era, of sorts.
For the past two years, I have been graced by the guiding editorial hand of my good friend Scott Downing. Scott has helped me to temper my meandering mind into a more focused flow of thoughts about the films I see. He taught me the intricate uses of the em dash, and whittled vigilantly away at my over dependence on commas. He nearly wiped the redundant use of the phrase “of this film” completely from my reviews. And he never stopped short of calling me out when I was cheating my way toward a point.
My writing has grown immensely since the day—a little more than two years ago—when Scott sent me an e-mail with the proposal that I let him edit my reviews. I was humbled and honored by his request. We agreed that we would end it if at any point either of us felt uncomfortable about the intrusion into each other’s creative lives. We seemed to fit from the start. I know he didn’t always agree with my opinions, and I’m sure I spoiled more than a few movies for him before he got a chance to see them. But he took pains to ensure that my voice and intentions were never changed.
Scott is a very detailed editor, always adding more to my reviews than just grammar correction. There were a few occasions where I declined a suggestion from him, but considering he edited over a hundred reviews for me, those differences were fractional exceptions. My rule was that if I had even the slightest doubt about my choice, I would always go with Scott’s. There were many times I simply abused his services, submitting drafts with full awareness of glaring errors I would trust him to fix rather than working it out myself.
At the time we began our writing collaboration, Scott and I were pretty much friends by association. We shared mutual friends and had spent four or five extended weekends with our friends together. We knew our interests were quite similar and had formed a fairly strong friendship considering the brief time we had spent together. During the past couple of years, however, we have built an enduring camaraderie. Our bond formed so quickly, I insisted he invite me to his wedding should he ever marry. He did a year later, and I attended a celebration that was as meaningful to me as it would have been had we known each other all our lives.
When I received Scott’s e-mail entitled “A Sabbatical” earlier this week, I knew our grand experiment had come to its end. I was able to accomplish a great deal because of our collaboration. I’m very happy with the web site I’ve built, a passion greatly fueled by Scott’s efforts to take some of the creative pressure off my shoulders and by his enormous encouragement. Most importantly, though, was that his involvement allowed me to develop a discipline that is so much harder to accomplish on your own. It is a discipline I have already begun to use in larger projects.
The term “sabbatical” suggests that this departure will not be permanent, and I certainly hope to work with Scott again. He is more than welcome to return to The Well at any time he wishes to recommence his spot in the editor’s seat. But he has his own writing assignments to follow, and I have mine. For now, I am happy with the time Scott so graciously (and voluntarily) spent helping to shape me as a writer and an artist. I can’t thank you enough, buddy.