“I made something you will probably like!”
I hear those happy words quite often from my little girl. They perfectly express the feeling I had the first time I offered up my writing to public scrutiny. I had been writing for years for myself. One day, I stumbled across a place online that wanted to post things like I had been writing. I was pleased to share, thinking that if these things had made me so happy, there was a good chance that they would make someone else happy, too.
And they did. I read comments, I received emails. People were reading, and they liked what I had made. So I made more. For two years, I wrote weekly, sharing freely, loving every moment. I loved sitting down in front of a blank screen, letting my mind wander until it hit upon an idea. I loved the scramble of words that flowed onto the page inside-out, backwards and inversed. I loved pulling the threads of my ideas, gently picking loose the knots and straightening the strands until I had exactly what I wanted to say on the page.
One day, I got an offer. Someone wanted a book of my little stories.
They sent me an editor.
My first editor, the one who had wanted to post things like I had been writing for myself, had been telling me for two years that she loved my writing and I barely needed to be edited.
The new editor informed me that I was a horrible writer and the only thing I had going for me was an interesting turn of phrase. She told me coldly that if she was going to help me, I needed to understand just how bad I was and how much work it was going to take for me to become even passable. She explained repeatedly that everything I had written was so close to worthless that she didn’t think it could be fixed. She called me multiple times a day for over a month to inform me that she’d read yet another bit of my rubbish and was even less inclined to think I had any talent as time passed.
Frantic to understand how I could have misunderstood so badly what I had been doing for so long, I went back and read each post over and over. The truth was harsh. She was right. I really was horrible. I was not a writer. I had no talent. I read and re-read all those words I had happily and joyfully put together over the years and realized that I had been an idiot to think I knew what I was doing. The people who had said they liked my posts probably didn’t know what good writing was. I felt sorry for them.
I turned down the book deal. The new editor called me several times to assure me that it was a good decision to quit, and to emphasize that she didn’t think there was an editor on earth who could get anything usable from the drivel I had spewed up.
I stopped writing. I was so bad at it that there wasn’t enough time left in my life to get better. I made pretty excuses to people and found a lot of reasons to prove I was right to quit.
It took over a year before a particularly strong and reasonable logical thought finally managed to shove its way up through the thick layers of explanations and justifications I had created in my brain.
I would not have been offered a book if I had no talent.
The day that logical thought grabbed hold of my brain, shoving my pretty excuses to the side to hold my inner eyelids wide, I opened my laptop and started reading my little stories again, pulling them out of their undeserved exile. They weren’t perfect. But I wasn’t talentless. I wasn’t. After a year of wallowing in a file folder on my desktop, my little stories spoke to me as fresh and happy as they had when I had first written them.
I read through them, all two years’ worth, welcoming them back – and welcoming back my writing self as well. Some of the stories are really good. Some of them have really good parts. Some of them need complete reworking. I think the same is true for me. I could have used a few words from the first editor to help me grow. I never, ever needed the second editor. Someplace in between, where constructive criticsm grows – that’s the place for me.
So, here I am. I may make something you will like. I may not. Whichever it is, I’m here. And I’m writing.