My ego was feeling rather puny at this point, which I expected and didn’t expect all at the same time. I knew there were an infinite number of things I didn’t know about writing when I applied to the program. That’s why I was there and I’d been grateful that they had accepted me. Only, most of us want people to fall down in a dead swoon after they’ve read something we’ve written and I was no different.
A writing program wouldn’t be much good if it only put a stamp of approval on the craft that you already know how to use. As the director of our program often reminded us, it’s a lifelong journey. Can we ever so good at our craft, so original in our ideas, that there’s no room for improvement? It doesn’t seem logical does it? For my writing to be art, I was trying to accurately express the story I imagined in my head but I’m not sure that anyone completely achieves that goal.
How do you keep yourself from slitting your wrists, or to be more realistic, eating the entire half gallon of fudge ripple ice cream in your freezer? I imagine that everyone has to find their own way. Even now, I don’t take criticism that well. I try and try but I just don’t want to hear it. I tried going to a writer’s group a while back for one of my books and its only months later that I’m able to understand what comments were good and which ones were bad. At the time, we’re sitting in this nice little French country restaurant and I just wanted to throttle the woman who kept going on and on about my book. Of course, saying that you don’t like the word “knack” is going a little too far but I think I totally tuned out when she said that no agent would ever want to read the book the way it was. I’d already had two who’d read the first few pages at a conference and said they wanted to read the whole thing. The point which I seemed to have forgotten somewhere in my rantings, was that there were some things she said that did give me ideas that I used when I was recently revising the beginning of that book again. My trick with comments is to give myself a little space. In her case, I don’t know why she annoyed me so much, a full continent probably wasn’t enough for the first couple of months. I don’t want to ever go back to that group. Still, I knew that when I was reading one of the sections and my mind kind of stumbled that it was one of the places she wanted me to revise. Of course, she did want me to do it her way and didn’t just say it was awkward. That’s what I write as a comment in my student’s writing when I experience a mental “stumble.” I try very hard not to rewrite their book. She should try that sometime.