Humility

So, I wrote this thing.

An entirely new thing for me.

New genre; new(ish) form.

I read it to my husband and he got teary. Praise ensued.

I figured this masterpiece should be sent to my agent STAT.

Sell it! I’d cry. Make me famous!

Luckily, I did not listen to that impulsive voice (which sounds a lot like my 16-year-old self, swimming about my small home town, a big writerly fish).

Instead, I joined a one-time, month-long online critique group on Inked Voices.

I offered feedback on other people’s work, then collected responses on mine.

You’ve probably anticipated this plot point.

The responses were not great.

I’d been expecting gushing praise for my brilliance.

Seriously.

Instead, I got a little bit, um, eviscerated.

One of the writers offered her advice followed with (paraphrased): “I know what I’m talking about. I’m a poet.”

This was around the time that Following Sea was launching. I felt my face burn in shame.

The veil had lifted: Β that gossamer, shimmering, rose-coloured filter through which I saw easy success.

But you know what?

She was right.

Her notes were dead on.

A lot of the others’ were as well.

That isn’t to say that it didn’t hurt a bit.

I mean, uh, I’m a poet too

But, then, writing hurts.

It hurts a lot and often.

It is not for the weak of heart.

Luckily, that hurt is balanced by a deeper elation: catching that exactly proper turn of phrase and scurrying for a pen to write it down. Creating worlds. Making stories.

Tinkering, tinkering, tinkering, as I talked about in an interview on the radio show HOWL on CIUT 89.5 FM this week (which you can listen to here).

After that, I let the thing sit for a bit.

I wondered if I should give up (it is, after all, a genre I’ve never written in before). But then the character lumbered back to me…

I’ve revised my brains out this week. Rewriting, rewriting, rewriting.

Reading it so often to my husband that he knows bits of it by heart (which is better than Shark Baby which also took a turn through our house because J., after all, is an elementary school teacher).

He still thinks it’s good…

but now it is SO MUCH better.

I’ve decided to send it to an editor with loads of experience in this genre.

We’ll see.

Humility is good for the soul, I’ve realized.

It’s good for the work too. It’s a bit like fertilizer: boosting the roots, helping them stretch for deeper ground.

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4 Responses to Humility

  1. Avatar
    Pauline Clark March 23, 2019 at 8:23 am #

    So much better than people telling you it’s great when it isn’t though. I submitted a story to the local paper a few days ago. It appeared online Thursday night and I waited for the praises–which came from varying people. But then my hubby (who’d been proofing and critiquing for me) pointed out it wasn’t right. Yikes! My rough draft had been submitted. My final article for some reason saved in a cloud instead of on my PC and I attached the WRONG one. So now I wonder, did all those people who said “great article” even read it or did they snicker behind my back. If only one had said something off the top…and on that note, I’m sure your piece is fab Lauren but I love your honesty and how, even with your successes, you show me that you still have the exact same feelings as the rest of us.

    • Lauren
      Lauren March 23, 2019 at 10:10 am #

      Sorry to hear this! That’s a tough experience! Yes, it is my mission to show that the writing experience is the writing experience, no matter the level of out-in-the-world success. I remember learning this myself in a class with Austin Clarke when he brought his troubles to our seminar and the lightbulb went off for me that no matter how many publications you have in the world, we’re all still doing the same work πŸ™‚ All the best to you!

  2. Avatar
    gail foy March 21, 2019 at 11:36 am #

    Lauren, I totally understand how you must have felt.

    I wrote about my six month experience in the Yukon. A friend wanted to send it to the Atlantic as he thought it was so well written and interesting.
    I said no’ thank you’ but I was “chuffed”!

    I needed validation so when I returned to Ontario, I joined a writers’ group and read a sample of my writing expecting them to rave about it.
    T’was not to be.

    My treasured words were gently torn apart.
    I felt humiliated.

    Now i’m gun shy.

    I appreciate that family and friends are so kind with praise .
    ‘A bit like when I was in a school concert tap dancing and I couldn’t keep up with the music and dance routine but everyone clapped and said was a born dancer!!

    gail

    • Lauren
      Lauren March 23, 2019 at 10:12 am #

      Gail: I hope this helps with your gun-shy-ness! I’ve signed up for the April critique session to, to bring my next draft back to them. πŸ™‚ Validation is important. So is honesty. It helps if you can develop a love of revision too ~ the pleasure of tinkering, looking up words, setting small goals (ie. going sentence by sentence or simply strengthening verbs). My two cents. All the best to you!

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