…be sure you are not in fact, surrounded by assholes or people who don’t “get you”.
This reminder has lived with me for some time, but surfaced and stuck as my internal mantra when my self-doubt and angst as a writer was at its peak, and even now when these feelings come up again as they often do, and mostly because the voices in my head wouldn’t shut the hell up. I guess the years of procrastination had caught up with me.
In the earlier days, I would cautiously share my poetry with a few friends and loved ones, hoping they’d provide constructive criticism to encourage and help me grow as a poet. I envisioned feedback that would me to at least feel comfortable performing at an open mic poetry event, or growth that would help me become a better writer who could begin submitting to magazines, papers, and journals. I trusted these people with the dungeons and dagons that tormented me and kept me awake at night; with the demons that danced in my head during my working daylight hours, and boy, was that was a huge mistake!
To be fair, these weren’t mean people. They were friends and loved ones with their own fears, self-doubt, and in several cases, saw themselves through my writing but didn’t like the reflections.
As much as I promised and swore myself to secrecy on particulars, or behaviors, apparently I had opened some Pandora type box on thoughts that go bump in the night. But honestly, I wasn’t going to stop observing life around me so I was at an impasse. I felt confident that no one’s life was being ripped off, mimicked, or exploited so I had to trust my gut and my writing. The result? Loss of friendship and loss of trust in sharing my early drafts with others. But I decided that what I had to say had to come out in some form or fashion and this was the only form that I felt was right for me. I hope my friends would understand.
Today, it’s still gut wrenching and sometimes physically painful to send a draft for feedback. In some instances, I preferred paying a stranger to edit and provide feedback but since editing funds weren’t as easily available in my earlier years, I was limited. Now, I definitely recommend it.
So what’s the outcome of all of this? Well, as some may know, my poetry’s been published a few times and I’m still slugging away, submitting to journals and papers and magazines…and dealing with the rejections and celebrating the small, occasional wins. So hang in there, writers! (This sentence is just as much for me as anyone else!)
Oh, and I’m much more selective when sharing my deepest, darkest thoughts. Constructive criticism still feels icky and uncomfortable but it helps. By making better choices about who I ask for feedback, I’m at least sure the comments are about my writing and not other people’s issues. I had to be sure that I’m not surrounded by assholes or by people who couldn’t see past themselves, their life experiences.
Somewhere along the way, I’m getting better at learning to love myself a little more, learning to just write more and more freely, and, I’d dare say, to have faith that the stories in my head will touch or reach the right person.
If you need some quick inspiration: