by Myra Nour
For “young writers” who may be hesitant in submitting your material to magazines, to critique/partners, sending excerpts to web sites, or not even allowing friends to read your stories: there comes a time when you must be open to possible criticism; for if not, you may be cutting yourself off from positive feedback as well…the fertilizer, so to speak, of an aspiring writers growth. All of us start out jotting down poems and stories, sticking them in drawers – storing them away like a squirrel stashing nuts – for future purposes. But some of us hide them away from prying eyes, never having the confidence to let our characters and fictional worlds breathe the light of day.
Some may say “I’m not as good as so & so”; but self is not always the best judge. Only other eyes can tell us if there are glaring mistakes in our work, small clarifications, or “no, leave it as is, fantastic work in progress.”Of course we want to be sure and get more than one person to read/critique our work, because they may be prejudice. If you give it to family/friends, they are naturally bigoted in your favor and may give you a more positive read than you deserve. On the other hand, you may give your story over to a stranger and get a very negative response – maybe it’s right on target – but it could be that person just doesn’t appreciate your point of view or dislikes your genre/style of storytelling.
It’s the same premise as looking for more than one review on a book you’re interested in; the more reviews you read (good or bad), the more confidence you have that you’ve “got to have that book!” or stay clear of it!!
Let me pause from the writing discussion a moment and diverge into the personal realm, to better explain this article’s concept. We all experience personal conflict and pain in our life; some of us are convinced we’ve had worse “luck” than others, some realize that we’ve led a better one than many other people.
Myself – I’ve had a tough life (although many parts have vastly improved since marrying my husband) and went through many traumatic experiences; yet I know many others who have harder fates to bear. I’ve known people who look at my outward face (that which we choose to show society) and saw a fairly attractive women with intelligence & talent, working in a good job that she loved, married to a handsome, loving man, lived in a beautiful house with lovely antique furniture, owned nice cars, & had a good income – and some were envious of my good fortune. Some even told me that they wished they were in my shoes.
Forgetting the fact that I used to be very poor and worked my butt off to get to the point at which they viewed my life – for those I knew who were in personal pain, I shared some of my life experiences and their statement would always change to “I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes”. As I would say to them…to be in my shoes, now, you would’ve had to walked in them all my life – walked my walk, lived my experiences.
To further illuminate – one of my past co-workers was going through a divorce because her husband cheated on her. One weekend we went to a conference and shared much of our lives while in transit. She turned to me afterwards and said “I feel so bad, as if my divorce were nothing compared to what you’ve been through.” I told her that her divorce was her own individual pain, that she had to live through it. She had the right to own that pain, not to discount it. Personally, I had never lived through the pain of a cheating husband and wouldn’t (hope never to) want to. But, she was also “stuck” in her pain and had not worked any closer to a resolution, even though it had been months. Our “sharing” did help her see that we all have been exposed to pain, on different levels, but if we let it be a learning, growth experience, then we can come out the other side one day…stronger.
Now, back to the writing…each person has lived, encountered their own pain, joy, love, hate, etc. Use these “life lessons” to enliven your work; then learn to stop discounting your own words, as my co-worker discounted her own pain. You’ve lived it – now write it, believe in it, love it, and then share it!
© 1999 by Myra Nour