There have been two times in my life when I have been completely affected by a reaction to my work.
The first was when I was interning at a magazine in Jackson, trying to start my working life, secretly wanting to be a graphic designer.
I was told I was in charge of heading up the calendar, gathering all the information. I took upon myself to design the thing and sheepishly put it on my desk in front of my [terrifying] boss and he looked at my design, looked at me, looked at my design, looked at me, and said…
– You did this? You designed this?
– Wow. This is good.
It affected me. He didn’t say much, but he was surprised. Taken back. And I knew I was good. Knew I wanted to be a graphic designer.
The second time was in Australia. I was writing a lot a lot. I decided to let a friend [i hardly knew, because: what’s there to lose?] read something I had written. His eyes became so wide. He looked at me, down at the journal, at me, at the journal, and said…
– You are a writer.
He was so surprised. And I was so affected, so proud. I wanted to write.
I’ve been clinging to these two compliments and sucking them dry in application to everything I design and write. I actually don’t think I’ve shared a single private writing to anyone since Australia. I mean, this here blahg is pretty private sometimes… but private in the sense of it’s on the freaking internet.
So when it was my turn to share a chapter in my “Writing the Novel” class, I was terrified. Terrified.
Because it’s not like I just sit there and read it and we move on. No. I email it to everyone a week before and they print it and take a red pen to it while they smoke a cigar and read it under a single lamp in a dark room and cackle every time I forget a comma. [pretty much.]
Then we all get back together on Wednesday and discuss and critique the chapters for the week.
I literally had nightmares. In the one last night, one of the best writers in the class looked to our teacher and said…
– I just don’t understand all the blood in Rachel’s story.
And I kept trying to tell them…
– What?! There’s no blood! There’s no blood!
– It just doesn’t make sense to me why she wanted to add blood to this story.
Talk about creepy… and let’s not read into that too much. But, yes, nightmares about my writing.
I would start sweating just thinking about this critique.
I, so desperately, wanted everyone to just look at me wide-eyed, jaw-dropped and say…
– Wow. You are a writer.
But I know that’s not how this class works.
And tonight was the moment of truth. So I went to the store and bought a bottle of Big House Red Wine [what we drank at the swamp house] to be reminded of my friends and family who already love me no matter what. And I bought a Cadbury Fruit and Nut Chocolate Bar [what i always ate in australia] to remind me of when I wrote, when I wrote my best.
I arrived at the home we meet at and sat down.
– Oh, look at that! I brought a bottle of wine for us all to share. I’ll take the big glass.
We sit in an intimate circle and I can see that my chapter is top on the stack in the teacher’s lap. [gulp, gulp, chug.]
They started in on me, my chapter. I breathed deep, deep breaths.
And it. Was. Awesome.
I mean, not my chapter, they didn’t like it at all… too disconnected, too vague… but the experience? Ah-mazing. I’m not kidding. It was like a high; like a runner’s high. People cared about my writing and were really trying to help with this story because they wanted to know it, wanted to hear it, wanted to read it. Not for one second did I go all Flavor-of-Love-Girl-“I KILL YOU!” on anyone… nor did I want to.
It was great. And the lines that people really loved, repeated, ugh, I could kiss them on the lips. I loved them for loving any word… even if it was only one in the midst of dozens incomprehensible.
It has made putting myself out there in this way all worth it.
And now I’m addicted. [ah-ddicted.]
I came home, I looked at myself in the mirror [lips only mildly purple], and beaming smiles from every angle, I thought to myself…
You did that? Wow.
You are a writer.