Like a trip to the girl doctor that you video then post on YouTube.

That’s what it feels like, this writing insanity: exposing yourself, then begging people to distribute the evidence.

The recent news that I’ve actually had my work accepted by a journal is bittersweet.

I’m completely neurotic about what my bio should say, my head shot, if my mother will disown me for the content of the piece.

I tried to take the advice of my writing friends and bask in the “glory of the moment.” It worked for like a nanosecond. All I feel is anxiety–that the acceptance was a mistake, will be recanted, or that I’ll never be able to write something good enough to get published again.

All this before the thing’s ACTUALLY been published.

Also I’m still writing, and not all of my stories are loved. Or even liked.

Which can be a total buzz kill.

The other night I took some tough feedback about a short story that I think has promise. It’s part of the process, I guess, letting other writers inspect your privates, tell you what they like and don’t like.

If I were you, I’d just trash that thing, start again.

But I like these privates! They’re, like, a PART OF ME.

Anyway, it got me thinking about how we (writers) can do a better job supporting, encouraging, and inspiring, while also providing useful feedback. I’m working on being a better feedback-giver. And encourager.

The picture’s not great, but that’s the governor.

This week I had the honor of being in the audience while Governor Gregoire and two other amazing women accepted the Woman of Distinction award from the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. It was a lovely luncheon. (Thanks, Patty, for the invite!)

What stuck with me afterward was the  importance of support.

In all of the speeches and the video presentations, the common message was how peer and mentor encouragement had been critical in the lives of these high-achieving women, including the Governor.

I know it’s also necessary to point out where a person is missing the mark, but there have to be ways to do this that don’t shut a person down, and instead, raise a person up and get them excited to dive back into their work and revise.

I hope I never lose sight of how much courage and work it takes for a person to expose their writing to the world. And I want to respect that, even when I’m asked to look closely and give them my “professional” critical opinion.

To my friend Grace, who recently asked me to read her memoir, I hope my responses were respectful and helpful. You are a talented writer.

If you have thoughts on giving and receiving feedback, please share.



13 thoughts on “Like a trip to the girl doctor that you video then post on YouTube.

  1. I personally think the “privates,” as you put it, make the best stories–those grainy, intimate moments that humanize even the most flawed characters. I’ve taken a sabbatical from writing fiction recently, but I understand what you mean about a writer’s confidence hinging on a few words from their peers. Don’t “trash” any of your pieces; that’s complete lunacy. If this is in a workshop setting, I think I would wonder what threatened the reader to make such a bold statement? Was it too provocative? Too uncomfortable? If so, maybe you’re on the right track. Readers often project themselves into the story. Perhaps, they were just not ready to examine their, ahem, private parts in a room full of people 🙂

    • Thanks, Elizabeth, for your great comment. I agree. The really revealing moments do humanize characters and immerse readers into the work. I think it’s tough to give helpful feedback — it’s sort of an art in itself. And I’ll admit that sometimes it’s difficult for me to respond in a constructive way when I absolutely don’t connect with a story or get confused or have no idea what the story is trying to do. I’m not trashing m “privates,” but I may be more selective about who I show them too. At least for a while…

  2. I’m in the midst of writing my first novel at the moment, so thank you for this inspiring post before i delve back into my words. I love the ‘privates’ too, same reasons Elizabeth gave; Nikki Gemmel is one of my favourite modern writers for that reason. and Love virginia Woolf and Emily Bronte. this is where true beauty of prose and ‘life in words’ feels right for me.
    It is scary handing over your heart on paper to others, but i always think of Alanis Morissette, who got over a thousand rejections for her music and voice before maverick records picked her up. and Bryce Courtney when he first sent out ‘The power of one’ was rejected and told he was a terrible writer, a few months later he signed a million dollar contract with another publishing house, and we all know how successful and talented both these people are. So if someone doesn’t like it, it doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means you need to find the right aurdience.
    Thanks again for the inspiration 🙂

    • Awesome comments, lilithrose! Love the Alanis Morissette anecdote–I didn’t know she’d been rejected like that before she become famous, though I’m not surprised because at the time she was so different than everyone else. You’re absolutely right about finding your audience. I think generic reader feedback can be helpful if a person’s writing something more status quo (I enjoy and write more mainstream stories, too), but if they’re trying something a little unusual or edgy or new or genre-bending, being more selective when choosing beta readers may be a good idea.

      Great conversation! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  3. I get used to trashing close-to-my-heart-work. 98% of everything I write is crap. That’s why they call me the milk man. I get it right 2% of the time.

    • Ha! Funny, Ross. But I bet your percentage is much better than 2.

      I guess if we got it right all the time, writing wouldn’t be as challenging or as much fun. Or maybe that’s what I tell myself so I don’t feel like such a loser. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment! I’m torn on the subject. If a person asks for honest feedback, do you give it, even if your feedback isn’t all glowing? I guess I try to land on balance. Pointing out strengths and “opportunities,” asking questions that provoke more thinking and inspire improvement. Not sure how well that’s working for me. 🙂

  4. To me what you just wrote is constructive. I won’t just tell someone they suck. I want to explain why i think so and it is my nature to throw in a compliment as well. This method gets a better response in my experience.

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