Saturday, August 3, 2019

This is for you Mr. Abbott

This is for you Mr. Abbott. That's today's title and that's my new mantra. Once upon a time, I had an English Professor who taught Creative Writing. Or at least the university billed the course that way. I beg to differ. My first assignment was returned to me with a notation at the top: This isn't plausible or believable. 

I'm sorry, wasn't this a creative writing class? Wasn't the assignment to write a short story about something remarkable? The operative word being story. As in fiction. As in make-believe. Plausibility wasn't high on my list of priorities.

It took me a good 40 years to fully comprehend what he meant. He meant my writing wasn't believable. He didn't buy into the premise. I wasn't convincing. Seriously it took a lifetime of writing to realize that while at the time I thought he was simply being an arrogant SOB, which he was, believe me, he was trying to tell me something. I just wasn't open to hearing it.

It's often like that with criticism. I don't care for it, as much as I need it. I need to be told what's wrong with my writing, I just don't want you to tell me. I've had this conversation with others who write, paint, sculpt, dance, perform and so on. We crave a reaction. We thrive on feedback. It makes us better artisans. Yet when it is at its most constructive, we really really don't like to hear it. It doesn't make us feel good. It's not generally uplifting.

In fact I cannot think of a worse career than being a critic. Might as well just slap two horns on my head and paint my face green. Because for me, the idea of being a critic is the antithesis of who I am. I do not want to be the source of anyone's pain. Yet here I am constantly asking for feedback on my work and asking my readers to critique it. Publicly no less. Masochism? Insanity? What I want deep down is to see fabulous 5-star reviews. But that is out of my control. What will I do when someone leaves a lousy review? How bad will I feel? Is it worth the risk?

No pain no gain. I always hated that phrase. Still do. But then again, the truth hurts. When it comes to writing, this is the truth. No pain no gain. Mr. Abbott tried to teach me that. Maybe if he'd been a better teacher I might have listened. See, there I go, still reacting to his criticism. Hopefully however, I can now transform the pain into gain.

So this is for you Mr. Abbott. I've completed my first two novels and finishing up my third. I can only hope that when the reviews are in, I'll be ready to listen.


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