It’s been too long since I’ve written a blog post. It’s also been that long since I’ve written anything of import. I’ve pounded the keyboard on occasion, but it just didn’t go anywhere. My get-up-and-go got up and went. I pondered over it, tried to get over it, but the words just wouldn’t come.
Finally, I realized what had happened. I was not writing because I was fixating on what I might do wrong. Whoa, Nellie! How the heck did that happen?
I’ve always felt I have a thick skin. I can handle any kind of writing criticism. Even a critique or a passing comment I totally disagree with is food for thought. These people are readers. Readers with their likes, dislikes and attitudes will hopefully, eventually be picking up a book with one of my stories in it or God willing, one of my novels. What they think may or may not impact what I write, but awareness is good. In an excellent eBook I just read, Making Story: Twenty-One Writers On How They Plot, edited by Timothy Hallinan, one of the contributing authors, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, said “If the people you ask to read over are trustworthy, they are not out to sabotage your work but help you. So listen to them and make judgment calls for each criticism, putting your ego to one side as you do this. Receiving criticism by e-mail beats reading the same in the review section of the paper, hands down every time.”
At a writers critique group I attended in July, one of the critiques I received was in my estimation over the top. I came to realize the critique was less about my writing and more about me. It was payback for probably more than one faux pas committed by yours truly. Admittedly, I have trouble determining where the invisible social lines are drawn and find myself stepping over them occasionally. I usually realize my mistake belatedly and try to make amends. In the back of my mind I always worry about where those dratted lines are, but don’t always get it. As I told another critiquer, I try to be nice, but I can be incredibly stupid.
I believe this reviewer’s take on my writing was as honest as it could be, but the way it was delivered aloud in the group and on the story she handed back to me was condescending, sarcastic and mean. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to me often and I was totally unprepared. What shocked me more than the review was that it led to a gradual paralysis of my ability to write. It wasn’t that I thought I had no talent. It was because I was too afraid of whom I might offend, insult or otherwise prod into a repeat. It wasn’t about my writing. It was about me.
Well. That was then. The only reason it worked so long on my psyche is because it took me so long to admit to myself it mattered what people thought of me. When I was reacting on a purely subconscious level, it was devastating. I’ve been living in the country, away from city and academic life too long. My ability to recognize this kind of dynamic had been on hiatus.
The silver lining is that it woke me up to the possibility of more, but also the ability to recognize it for what it is and cope. If I aspire to write on a salable, commercial level, I open myself up to be a target for more of the same. There will be those who don’t like my writing and those who don’t like me. I am sure some of them will be vocal or well-read. Now I am more prepared.
So here I am, putting it out there again. If I step on your toes, feel free to let me know. It’s is much preferable to belated, oblique vengeance. My obliqueometer is faulty, but it’s under repair.
While floundering with all of this, my novel has been percolating in my head. I hadn’t quit, I was just stymied. Realization upon realization – I need to rewrite the dang thing. I’m mostly happy with the writing. What I’m not happy with is the focus. It doesn’t have any. That’s why I’ve been having so much trouble developing a plot. I hadn’t really settled on a core theme and story parameters. Reading the above mentioned book has been a revelation in that regard.
I appreciate all who have been patient and understanding as I struggled toward another light bulb moment.