Saturday, June 29, 2013

Constructive insults

You know that feeling you get when you are trying something on in a dressing room and your shopping cohort asks to see it? Maybe you hate the outfit or maybe you like it, either way, when you step out the door, there is a sort of dread that comes with anticipating the person's reaction. Whether you like it or not, you want the other person to shower you with compliments anyway.

I hate this feeling. Yet it is a feeling that as a writer I have to learn to face. I feel like I'm constantly standing in the dressing room trying something on and someone is outside the door asking to see it. I keep picturing this reaction my mother gave me once. I stepped out of the dressing room in a romper and my mother pinched her face like she had eaten a sour candy, threw her hands up and shook her head in utter dismay. At the time, it hurt my feelings. Later on when I hadn't wasted $50 on the romper, I got over it.

I hate criticism. Who doesn't? Nobody likes to have done something wrong. Take a little kid for example. They've just colored a picture that they can't wait to show off. This picture happens to have been drawn in crayon all over their bedroom wall. The parent's response is probably more along the lines of anger rather than praise. And this horrible reaction floods their little face as the reality that they've done something wrong sinks in. Quivering lips, teary eyes and heartbreaking apologies are almost too much to bear. But, if the parent were to just tell the kid they loved the picture, the child would do it again.

We have to be told when a dress is too tight or that a bedroom wall is not the place for a colorful rainbow.

I have been a perfectionist my whole life. And let me tell you, it is draining. It is also extremely limiting. There are a multitude of things I've stayed away from because I didn't think I would be very good at it. Well, staying away meant I never gave myself the chance to learn. Yeah, I could have won a gold medal in gymnastics at the olympics. It is possible. I never tried so now I will never know.

I've recently taken a side job as a freelance writer. I'm working on this book series for a little extra money, and well, it comes with some of that dread. Every chapter I write, I have to send to an editor to have them look it over. And well, the grammar is often pretty bad. What else is new? There are also some comments that tend to sting. It isn't that this project is dear to my heart. It is that I just want to be good enough to not need any comments other than comments of praise.

When I don't hear what I want to hear, I thrust out my defensive walls. Pshaw, that editor don't no anything about anything. Who is this person anyway?

Really, who is this person? I don't know. However, they are actually really helpful.

Reality is that if I were so good to never hear a negative comment in any of my writing, then I would probably already be published. I'm sure some editor out there had a few comments for J.K. Rowling. And I know we all wish some editor would have told Stephanie Meyer to scrap the whole vampire baby bit in book four.

Books take time. Good writing takes time. A real story with loads of heart and accurate descriptions takes time. However, they also take the willingness to let someone read it and tell you where it could be better.

Here is the moral of the story. Hiding behind the dressing room door while staring at our own reflection is never going to work. We need to let others in. Only once we've opened that door can we know the truth. I promise, it is most likely a truth worth hearing. 

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