Let me explain my absence from blogging:
In college, I absolutely loathed “peer feedback” days. I have to be honest with you — part of the reason was that, unless the professor gave us the option to choose our partners, I often felt like I was paired off with someone who lacked the editing skills that came so easily to me. In short, I felt ripped off. I provided my classmate with extensive feedback and received a couple of sentences in return. Trust me, I understand how snooty that sounds.
When I declared my creative writing minor, however, it was a new kind of dread. I wasn’t handing over a research paper; I was handing over a piece of me. Something I pulled from my own brain, spilled out on paper, and pieced together from the recesses of my own imagination. And I was expected to let my classmates take it home, read it, write all over it.
It was truly a journey in anxiety for me. Workshop days were different than peer feedback days. I remember watching my classmates grab a copy of my short story on their way out the door with a pit in my stomach. I no longer worried that I was getting shortchanged in the review process. Sure, there was an element of that, but it was more that I was afraid of what my peers would think of my creative abilities. These were other writers, after all — some of whom I perceived as being better at the craft than me, and others who I felt lacked my skill. But all writers, who were being asked to critique my work.
I’m happy to say I’ve worked as an editor professionally for over three years now, and I have learned the importance of having eyes on your work. Even feedback that you initially perceive as worthless or bad or judgmental has value. It tells you how others are interpreting your work, whether or not they see your point. Sometimes, this was a hard pill for me to swallow (and truthfully, it still is sometimes). After all, I understood what the theme of my piece was. Why couldn’t they? But in the end, I had to learn to slog through all the feedback — the good and the bad — in order to see where I needed to improve.
A few months ago (right around the time I disappeared from blogging, actually …), a Skype conversation with a close friend and fellow writer sparked a need to pour out words on a novel I’ve been fighting to write since the sixth grade. After several weeks of laying the groundwork, that dreaded pit in my stomach — one I hadn’t felt since my fiction workshop in college — resurfaced. Stuck on a particularly difficult plot point, I sat back, stared at my computer screen with despair and realized I needed another set of eyes on my work. I needed to talk about it with someone, throw plot ideas out, describe characters and get feedback.
With great trepidation, I met with a lady who has become a true mentor to me. She was one of my creative writing professors in college, and I had the pleasure of working for her in my tutoring days. She is a published author herself. More than any of that? She is my friend. I trust her to offer clear, insightful feedback, whether it’s feedback I want to hear or not. It also means that I don’t want to disappoint her. Handing off my notebook and asking for her opinion was one of the most terrifying things I’ve done in my life as an editor or a writer. But several weeks and 12,000 words later, I couldn’t be more grateful that I got over myself and let her judge my work. I continue to be inspired to work on this piece in a way I haven’t in the past couple of years, and I feel like I’ve really come to terms with the editing process and its importance.
The knot never goes away, ever. But I’m able to swallow it down and ask my husband for his thoughts on a scene I’m working through. I can pick up my phone and text my friend for her opinion on a character. I can package up my writing in a Word document, attach it to an email and send it to my former professor without vomiting. Life goals, right?
It may sound funny coming from someone who makes a living editing others’ work, but it’s taken me a few years to really come to terms with the need for others’ opinions on your writing. On a rational level, I fully comprehend the need for this. I preach it daily to my clients. Sometimes I send them pages and pages of copyediting issues they need to resolve in their writing before moving on to the next step. But on an emotional level? It’s hard. It’s hard to pour yourself — whether or not it’s a creative piece — onto paper and put it out there for others to judge. But it’s so important.
All this to say, this creative fire has overshadowed most of the writing in my life. Do you ever have these streaks? In the past, I’ve written about the struggles of being an editor first and a writer second, but I’ll gladly let the writer take the wheel for a while. It’s done me a world of good so far.