Thursday, December 02, 2010

Is This Good?

As writers, we should spend as much time as possible on this side of the laptop or desktop, typewriter or with pen in hand, working, crafting and revising. We should also spend an inordinate amount of time with our noses in books, reading to get a feel for language and the stomach-plummeting feeling of a plot twist or well-crafted hook.

But we also probably spend more time than most wallowing in our own feelings of uncertainty. I know I do. In the near-constant search for a story idea, metaphor, the right word or just a pencil, is the search for validation; that need to know that what I'm doing is worth a damn. Or even worth another half-hour.

Over at the blog This Writing Business, Stacey tackles the feeling well in her post What I Write ... & Why, and Secret Agent Mom takes it to another extreme with Write On. I'm currently in the Moss Writing workshop at the University of Memphis where Richard Bausch touches on the subject of insecurity almost weekly. Part of his mission with the workshop, he says, is to break down the myth and to assure us that the questioning feelings we're having as writers are not specific to us and that, no matter how successful we might become, they'll never go away. It's part of what we've chosen to do.

So what we do is search for any glimmer, for a word or two from someone else, anyone else, who does or has done this to tell us to keep on keeping on. My wife, Kristy, created the Facebook page for Lee Smith simply because she's a huge fan of the writer and wanted to garner as much exposure for her as possible. At a recent reading at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, Kristy told Ms. Smith this and she was so grateful that she asked us to stick around afterward to chat. Upon hearing that I write, she encouraged me to stay with it. And, in a recent e-mail exchange with Kristy, Smith wrote: " ... and now I am thrilled to learn that your husband Richard has won the Memphis Magazine contest - this is a very big deal! - and I cannot wait to read his story." Lee Smith wrote that. In addition to On Agate Hill, Fair and Tender Ladies, Oral History and Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, among so many others, she wrote I cannot wait to read his story. And that, of course, leaves me with only one thought: What if she reads it and hates it? Because that's who we are and that's how we think.

I've spoken with some fellow writers recently about reading each others' working manuscripts. This is part of a dance that's done, this sniffing around each other to see if we're receptive or not. It's a difficult thing, asking someone, friend or family member, to read something for the first time. Remember that, any of you who have been asked to read a short story or novel. It is no different (maybe a little different) than asking you to babysit our infant. Treat it with care, read it as quickly as possible and offer feedback. And, make sure the first part of that feedback is "It's good!" because anything less will probably send the nascent writer into a coma.

Thank you for reading today, I hope this post is good. I should re-read it ... maybe even delete parts ... or, maybe, the whole damn thing if it's no good ...