Thursday, June 10, 2004

The reason I almost stopped writing

I have a problem with people criticizing my writing. I guess most of us do. Who likes to hear "This would be great if we took out this and changed that and oh definitely get rid of this over here....?" That's why when I was asked to submit a piece of writing to DotMoms a few months ago, I hesitated. How would I feel if I wrote something that I was really proud of and Julie, the editor, told me it was horrible and I had to do it over again? Could I do it? Isn't that what being a writer is all about? Even the great authors have an editor. They know re-writes are a part of their job. Why was this an issue for me? Let's go back to my 9th grade English class.

Mrs. Noonan was a nice teacher. We all liked her. She knew who her "serious" students were and I was pleased to be in that group. I loved English class. At the end of the year she told us we were going to be writing a symbolic poem. Yay! Poetry! By this time I had already been writing poems for 5 years. I wrote them for myself and for my sister, Kara, who enjoyed hearing them. She thought I was reading from a book! She was a great audience.

When I was 15 yrs old I was boy crazy like all girls are at that age. I had many girl friends and a few boy friends but no "boyfriends". It seemed like everyone on the planet had a boyfriend except for me. If I looked at this realistically, my 3 closest friends, Liane, Elissa and Theresa, did not have boyfriends at this time either but I didn't see that for some reason. So it was with this hopeful wish in my heart that I wrote my poem.

When Mrs. Noonan read it she said it was wonderful BUT...(Why is there always a damn BUT? Why?)
Ok, I braced myself for her wise words of wisdom. She wanted me to change the last sentence so it would be in iambic pentameter. By doing this she changed the entire meaning of my poem.
Here is how I wrote it:

The Little Boat

There's a little boat upon the sea
stranded all alone
waiting for a wave to come
to take her safely home

The boat floats far,the boat floats near
the wave is not in sight
the little boat floats all alone
every day and night

One sunny day a wave comes by
the boat's no longer alone
then she sees a very sad sight
he's taking another boat home

The little boat drifts on and on
hoping that maybe someday
a beautiful wave will come again
and this time, take her away.

The whole point was that "this time" it was her turn. "THIS TIME" was very important to me. Mrs. Noonan wanted it to say ...a beautiful wave will come again and take her far away." NO! NO!NO! She isn't going "far away." She doesn't want to be in some distant place. For goodness sake, she just wanted a boyfriend. He wasn't going to take her to Bora Bora, maybe just to a movie or something. How hard was this to comprehend?
So I had a choice: keep my poem as I wrote it and get a "B" or "C" OR choose what's behind door #2 and Change it and get an "A". That killed me. She destroyed my writing and changed it's meaning. I cried over this decision and then I decided that my desire for an "A" was greater than my desire to prove my point. I sold out! I sold out!

After that I decided never to show my writing to another human being again. How can what I write be wrong? It was too heartbreaking to go through ever again. Over the years I did manage to write some poems for people I trusted. They loved it and I felt "safe".But still,in the back of my head I always hear Mrs. Noonan and her criticism and I am scared to place my writing in front of a stranger.

Writing for DotMoms has been a good experience for me. Julie is kind and patient. She is a great editor. While she was on vacation she had 2 fill-in editors. I submitted a story to Lori who emailed me back with changes. I almost had an anxiety attack. Flashbacks to 9th grade were overwhelming me. I wanted to yell, "Leave me alone. I want to say it this way! Why can't I do it my way?" Lori was very nice about asking for the changes that she wanted but all I could hear in my head was that she wanted it HER way. I did make some changes but it still wasn't how she was hoping it would be. My heart was racing. Was I willing to sell out again? What was more important to me: writing it my way and not getting it published or doing it her way and seeing it on DotMoms?

I thanked Lori for her time and her offer to help me rewrite it. I decided to delete my story and not have it posted at all. Lori said she was sorry that we didn't see eye to eye on this story and so was I.
I wonder if I will ever be ok with rewrites. Maybe someday....but definitely not today!

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