Letting my junk hang out

So I’m at this retirement party for these two guys my husband used to work with and I’m talking to this woman–another former co-worker of my husband, but also a friend of mine–who mentions she read (at least started to read) the original story I tried drafting in real-time on this blog. That story was an epic fail. When I’d told her about the blog months earlier, I’d begged her not to read it.

At the party, we’d been talking about kids and school and books and goats. Somehow the blog came up.

She stood across from me on the deck holding a paper plate of hor’dourves. “Well,” she said rolling beef brisket around with her plastic fork, “You’re writing is good…” This was a reference to a Facebook post of mine in which I overshared a comment my ten-year-old daughter made, “Mom, you’re good at writing, just not that good at making up stories.” Something like that. My daughter’s point is valid–I often struggle with plot and my stories are rarely uplifting.

It’s no biggie that the friend at the party didn’t like my blog story–I don’t like it, either. But I walked away from the party wondering why I’d brought this pain on myself.

Yes, part of writing is knowing not all readers will like your work. BUT when you put your work out there, you usually choose your best stuff. The stuff, at least, that you like.

Why would I leave that horrible story out there (when I know it’s horrible) then warn people not to read it? That’s like strolling around town in pasties and a thong yelling, “Don’t stare at my junk!”

Are these ever a good idea?

My original intent with this blog–for better or worse–was to force myself to reveal in-process pieces of my fiction. That’s the whole Hot Pink Underwear idea. But after that first mortifying experience trying to draft fiction online, I’ve never revisited the concept. This is probably for the best. Nobody really wants to see anyone else’s underwear, unless:

  1. They love you.
  2. You’re a Victoria’s Secret model.
  3. They want to laugh at you.

Maybe I should embrace #3. The thing about #2 is that people DO want to see something that’s aesthetically pleasing–and the better the stories, the more readers will want to read them. Duh.

I’ll never write totally consumable fiction (or be a Victoria’s Secret model). That is my reality. But if I want to avoid ridicule, I can at least stop letting my junk hang out like some sort of literary exhibitionist.

Today I removed the content of two posts. I left the first couple posts in which I started drafting the story, since they weren’t that bad and other posts kinda relied on them, but I eliminated the worst of the story (the later posts where the story gets terrible).

Recently, another blogger invited me to participate in an Author tag game. The game requires posting a section of your work on your blog. My plan is to find and post a piece of writing I’ve polished and am proud to share.

Then when people say they don’t like it, I’ll at least feel better.

15 thoughts on “Letting my junk hang out

  1. I have to say that I feel so protective of my stories that I cannot feature doing what you do – putting up the process so people could criticize. Blogs being a medium that one tends to skim also make me want to only let those drafts be viewed by people who I’ve selected, who intend to take special care as they read.

    Also, people can often tell you they didn’t like something. But not explain why.

    Mostly I just want to be in your head, Macvie. It pleases me to hear your thoughts. You can do all the draft review and feedback stuff under the cover of darkness (and email…)

    • Wise words, Mesrobian.

      The further I go in this writing thing, the less I wanna share my stuff. People in my every day life ask to read my stories because they imagine I have something good for them to consume. Like they’re hoping I’ll drop a tasty casserole by.

      Sadly I’m not writing tasty casserole.

      I’ve pretty much resolved to keep my private bits mainly to myself, share drafts with writers I trust, and talk about casserole-making on the blog.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and being one of those people with whom I can share.

  2. I love your junk… but that’s another thing. ;-) It never gets easier for me to share my work and hear it critiqued. Even when I’m getting really good feedback (on a blog post, a story for my writing group, or chapters from the novel), my teflon skin crawls. It’s only teflon with compliments, the other feedback just soaks right in! Anyway, keep it up because I love your junk. Oops, again…

    • Ha ha! Thanks, Dawn. Yes, sharing kinda sucks. The longer I write, the more effort I tend to put into each new story–I want the one I’m working on to be better than the one I wrote before.

      But all that effort raises my stake in the game. My stories become incredibly meaningful to me. To care that much about a thing is crazy-making and to let others criticize it is pure torture.

      • Totally! Each time I edit a chapter, after feedback, I cringe that much more to hear new feedback. I feel the same way about the blog posts. Even if I know that one post was less meaningful, or took less effort, I hate seeing feedback that tells me that… or stats that reflect it! Arrgh… stats, the feedback barometer that should mean nothing but means too much anyway!

        • Stats are ridiculous. I often see views coming from little countries on the other side of the world and I can’t imagine why they’d be interested in anything I have to say. Then I imagine some guy alone in a hut Googling hot pink underwear and then everything makes perfect sense.

        • I get hits on my Call Me Prissy… Butt post EVERY day. Some days I can absolutely match the country with the hit. That and the 50 Shades of Humiliation at Costco post… gives me a kick. That said, 2 people in Thailand started reading my blog last week and read 90 posts… for 180 hits. Either that, or one person in Thailand had way too much time on their hands! ;-p They’ve come back each day, and I can see where they are in the posts. Coolio. No comments though.

  3. I belong to a website where we critique each others’ work. Critiquecricle.com. I like getting that feedback, but I only submit when I have a solid draft. I am not sure I could expose my naughty bits in public along the way though. It takes a long time to get feedback that way though, because it takes me forever to write. I just do not have a lot of time on my hands, so I write when I get the chance .

    By the way, this is such a fun metaphor. :)

    • I’ll check out Critiquecircle.com…do you find you get better feedback online or from writers you meet and share work with in the real world? I’m in several writing groups and do workshops with other writers in my MFA program. After years of doing all this, I feel that my writing as a whole has benefited, but I can’t say that any one story I’ve written has been dramatically improved by writing group feedback.

      Glad you’re having fun with the metaphor. I associate literature with sexy, writing with exposure, and reading with voyeurism. The metaphors sparked by those associations seem, to me, completely unavoidable.

      • Not to mention the importance of an effective climax. ;)

        I have found it helpful. I just do not have time for an in-person writing group. There would be no way for me to consistently attend. So I have no way to compare, sorry.

        I actually would like to have that more personal group, and I think I will find it eventually, but it is will still have to be online. For now I have the critiques at cc.com. They do have private ques, so it is certainly possible for me to join up with a private group at some point. It has helped me notice things, for example I have a great imagination, so I tend to leave out scene descriptions. Oops!

        The nature of bias is that we tend not to be aware of it, so it is helpful to get a 3rd party critique.

  4. “I’m not writing tasty casserole”–best comment ever, epic!

    Additionally–the reason you’re subjecting yourself to ‘the pain’ of having someone not-like your work is because you know that there will be many such blows on the way to ultimate success, and that in undergoing and submitting in that way, you are embracing the process in sincere expectation of the ultimate goal. Or something very much like that.

    I think the choice to reveal more polished drafts you feel you can stand behind makes a lot of sense–styled pink bikini, let’s say, rather than underwear… However, I’m strongly in favor of the idea of sharing drafts (not that I’ve ever considered a poem draft of mine worthy/interesting to put up on my blog, but since I’m in the process of reimagining my blog, that may change). One of my favorite books is _Poetry in Person_, ed. Neubauer, in which top-drawer poets share the creative process of a poem of theirs with a class of graduate students, including the progression from earlier drafts to a finished piece. I just love that.

    • I’m with you, Ela. I love when accomplished (whatever that means) writers share their creative process–from initial draft to polished work. Fiction writer Ron Carlson’s book Ron Carlson Writes a Story is like that. I learn so much by observing.

      I’d really like to get Steve Almond’s book Bad Poetry in which he publishes his crappy failed attempts to write poetry and the “morning after” analyses of his work. Hilarious. Almond’s an awesome essayist and short story writer. His ability to not take himself too seriously, while still being able to pull off writing about serious stuff, is enviable. I guess I had naive hopes of doing something like that. But not yet. I’m too neurotic. Too self-conscious, maybe.

      I may need to redefine “ultimate success” for myself…

      • Oh, Meagan, I’m so glad you’re tuned to Steve Almond! He was here in March and gave a talk and a reading. Included in the reading, some choice excerpts from his _Bad Poetry_ –and it really was bad, but his vitriolic self-commentary and willingness to let himself be the brunt of the points he was making was so inspiring. Of course he gave me a hard time with my questions, but I definitely get a lot out of reading what he has to say. Hearing it too.

        Redefining ‘ultimate success’ is something I’ve been meditating on a lot too lately. Having a chance of success at all seems to require (a) a good definition of success and (b) swearing off self-flagellation which is ultimately counterproductive.

        Ok, back to work!

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