It’s likely the hardest part about being in a writing class or group: offering our most intimate thoughts and projects up to strangers to be analyzed and discussed, all faults laid out on the table. No matter how many times I go through the process, my heart still beats a little faster every time my piece is discussed. Usually though, by the time everyone is done, I am buoyed up, encouraged, and eager to work harder, make changes, and improve my writing.
I’ve always loved to write, ever since I discovered in first grade that I could put words together to make my own stories. I was hooked, and I began to write. In those early days, I had no qualms about sharing my stories. I showed my mom, showed my friends, showed my teachers. In fourth grade, my teacher told me that there were magazines that published children’s writing and that I should submit the Christmas story I had written for class. I was ecstatic. Not only did my beloved teacher like my story, but she also thought others would too! But when I told my mom, my mom shrugged off the suggestion with: “Oh, well, we’ll see.”. She never mentioned publishing again and I learned to keep my stories to myself.
Years later, in ninth grade, I wrote a story about my great-great-grandfather, who was sent to America because he’d fallen in love with the wrong woman. I polished that story, poured my soul into it, and proudly turned it in to my Lit teacher. Weeks later, it was returned to me. “Good,” he’d written at the top of the page. Disgusted, I stashed the story away, perplexed by the vagueness of the adjective he’d chosen and craving genuine words of criticism.
The point of writing is, at some point,to share it. And when it’s shared, we all hope it will be liked. Which makes giving and receiving feedback so tricky. My mother’s feedback was that my writing wasn’t that important. My lit teacher’s feedback was that my story met all the requirements. Neither of them challenged me to be more. Even though both of them liked my stories, it wasn’t enough.
Yes, I want you to like my writing, but then I want you to point out my weaknesses, make me see my own style in a new light. I want to know how you reacted as a reader, what made the piece good or only okay or even not your favorite. I want to know what lessons you’ve learned about writing that I can use, too. I want you to be part of my creative process.
So despite the fact that my heart may beat a little faster, I continue to place my writing in your hands. Because together, we can grow our small texts into amazing literature.