Hello again from a Kozy place!
My little noodle has been jammed full of thoughts this week. An awkward meeting with ex (?) friends, the highs and lows of our latest handyman project, reconnecting with old friends via cyberspace, why my cat drives me insane after dark, etc. etc. But what’s foremost on my mind is my baby and my preparations to send it off into the world.
My baby was conceived while watching Sex and the City on the couch of a rental house in Key Largo, Florida. I’m not sure what the episode was about but it stimulated a part of my brain, started me musing about what it means to grow up as a female. In a frenzy, I found myself grabbing the laptop and rushing to the bedroom. There I struggled to type out the words that were flooding my brain before they disappeared forever. In the heat of passion I didn’t realize I was witnessing the creation of my baby…my very first novel.
Like real babies, a novel is a lot more work than you think it’s going to be. It would be two and a half years before that first draft was complete and another five months of editing before I had a version good enough to let someone else read. There will be many, many more edits and rewrites to come but what an amazing feeling watching my baby take its first step – off the computer and onto the page!
Now comes the difficult part, sending my baby out into the world on its own. It must be done though. I have read and re-read those pages so many times that I don’t know what’s good or bad anymore. At the risk of sounding like an unfit mother I will even confess that at several points in the editing process I HATED my baby. On the fourth complete rewrite of one chapter I wanted to toss my laptop in the garbage bin and go watch bad television instead. Well, no one said going through labour would be easy.
Now, when your baby takes its first solo trip you don’t just give it to anyone. I chose six people to be my first test readers. My selection was based on the quality of feedback I felt I would receive. I have no problem hearing that my baby is bad but I need to know exactly what makes it bad and maybe a suggestion or two to help make it not so bad.
In that group of six there is one person who does not know me. This is critical.
Criticism is easy, except when you have to give it to a friend – to their face.
We’re all critics. Finding fault with others is as natural as breathing to humans. I remember an exercise from my eighth grade drama class. It went like this: We all stood in pairs facing one another. Taking turns, we first had to observe our partner and compliment them on what we saw. It started out easy enough, “Your hair is so shiny. I love your jeans, etc.” but within moments we were all struggling to come up with nice things to say. This did not happen when we reversed the exercise and had to criticize the other person. On and on we went, the put downs grew more and more creative. It was fun, kids were laughing. And we never ran out of bad things to say. Eventually our instructor had to call an end to the exercise but it’s a lesson that has stuck with me.
In real life, it is still easier to find the bad in people than the good but we reserve expressing our opinions for when the object of our criticism is not present. Life quickly teaches us that we don’t like hearing bad things about ourselves, even when they’re true. So when Mary Joe shows up at our house with a hideous new hair cut we smile and tell her how nice it looks. But when we’re sitting with friends having cocktails (without Mary Joe) we are happy to share a good laugh over her Frankenstein-like coiffure.
Does this make us bad? I’m not sure. No one wants to hurt Mary Joe’s feelings, she’s a super nice person after all, but that hair, I mean, come on, how can you not say something about it? And if Mary Joe never finds out that you were laughing at the new do that she is so thrilled with, then no damage done right? Hmmmmm.
We all talk about people behind their back whether what we have to say is naughty or nice. If we had to wait for someone to be in our prescence to talk about them, our conversations would be very limited. When does talking about someone behind their back become harmful? Only when they find out? And when is it right to tell a friend what people are saying about them behind their back? I’m not entirely sure but I know that sometimes the “friend” who goes out of their way, calls you up out of the blue, to let you know what awful things are being said about you is far crueler than the backtalkers. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
No, we don’t like to hear bad things about ourselves but sometimes we NEED to hear them. Sometimes we can’t move forward until we deal with our faults; faults not obvious to us but painfully so to others.
And in the case of my baby, I NEED to know what’s wrong with it. As much as I’d love to hear everyone say “Bravo! What a masterpiece! Look out Da Vinci Code!” I know that there’s lots wrong with it that I can’t see. I need brutal, honest, jarring truth or my baby will never learn to walk. Someday my baby will be sitting on the desk of a potential agent or publisher and I want it to be its absolute best. And hopefully (fingers and toes crossed) someday my baby will be all grown up and interacting with scores of people (readers) I’ve never met – I sure want it to make a good impression.
So now I wait. Good, bad or ugly, I will take all comments and use them to help my baby grow. Yes, motherhood is challenging but oh so rewarding!
QUESTION: Have you ever heard something bad about yourself from behind your back? What did you do?
Until next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!