Thursday, October 10, 2013

Speaking of Balance . . .

“Writing is not a matter of time, but a matter or of space. If you don't keep space in your head for writing, you won't write even if you have the time.”
Katerina Stoykova Klemer

“What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is a win without a loss? What is health without illness? You have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other. There is always going to be suffering. It’s how you look at your suffering, how you deal with it, that will define you.”
Mark Twain

Suffering.  Time and space.  Concerns about making sure one's writing is good enough or unique enough or special enough.  The fear of having others read our work and make an insightful comment that stings, leading us to perhaps even abandon a promising and beloved project.  And even to hold a wad of spite for the evil workshop terrorist who saw through our work and pricked us right where it hurt the most since it was deadly accurate.  Critiques as a form of abuse.  Friends who hate us because we write.

Holy shit!

We've thoroughly explored a blivet* of these lovely downers lately and, yes, they are indeed out there.  But, as Mark Twain so aptly put it, "There is always going to be suffering."

So, how do we deal with suffering, and where's the balance in all that horror? 

Well, then, once more into the breach:  why the hell would anyone ever write?  Or tell someone else they write?  Or, OMG, show someone else their writing.  Or, WTF are they thinking, show someone their writing and ASK THEM TO TELL THEM WHAT'S WRONG WITH IT.  Sheer masochism, right?

Okay, well maybe there is a bright side, some balance.   People wouldn't do this kind of thing unless there was some payoff, right Dr. Phil?  

Indeed.  So, rather than a simple TELLING that good critiquing is a gift and the best way for most writers to improve their work, maybe it's time for some good old fashioned SHOWING.

Like the woman who had taken part in our workshop for a year or so and subsequently emailed to thank us for our feedback that helped her take a short story to the next level and get it published with a splash in a widely recognized journal.

Like the long time member who has published several stories in journals after working them through multiple revisions with feedback from our workshop.

Like the woman who recently came nearly to tears when a few in our workshop "got" the point of a short story she had submitted.  Yes, her story still needed work, but she had reached those few with her words and they had indeed shared her risk.

Like the woman who published a young adult novel after workshopping with our group and wrote to thank us for two significant elements we'd helped her recognize and implement.

Like me, who recently received one of the most rewarding compliments I've ever heard in a critique.  One member of our workshop said of a winter battle scene in my civil war novel that when she finished reading she felt the chill and the rain and the wind . . . but that she hadn't noticed the words that had opened to her those feelings!  Yes!  

That is why we write.  Only that.

* Blivet:  Ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag.


  1. Nicely said. The amount of pain one endures or is willing to endure varies with the individual and most don't know what they can take until they sit at the table. Look at Twain's quote again. That one struck me the hardest. "It's how you look at your suffering, how you deal with it, that will define you." I dealt with a lot of it in my journey, and still do. It is now the group and these friends who define me, that keep me coming back to finish the work. And when this work is over? There will be another project spurred on by the group and these same people.