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So why does it bother us?

Writerly complaint today.

I hope most writers feel the way I do about a new project — it’s small and defenseless and it needs nourishing and protecting and, rather like a human baby, it absorbs its creator’s thoughts both day and night.  The big difference between the human baby and the new writing project, however, seems to be that whereas we keep the baby wrapped in warm clothing and tucked in a crib and far, far away from anything that could hurt it, most of us send off our new projects to see what other people think about them.

This, I assume, was the origination of the critique partner

Okay, so I sent off my small, defenseless chick of a book, feeling quite proud of it and assuming everyone else would be able to see its developing greatness, and understand that it was going to be one of the world’s finest chickens — just wait and see.

Only what came back was a hunched-up, pathetic little remnant.  Hardly recognized my chick.  Another wing had been grafted on — what chick needs three wings? — and the cute little legs were gone and one of the new legs was longer than the other one.  I’m not sure about the beak.  Maybe it’s the same one, but it looks different.  And with it came a message explaining why everything was done, and how this would be a much better, saleable chick.  But it’s not MY chick!

So I slouch around the place, inclined to kick the furniture or the cat, only the cat’s too fast (stupid animal won’t hold still to cuddle — that might be nice) and I broke a toe a couple of years ago walking into a box of heavy Christmas stuff, so I won’t do that again.  My daughter asks why I’m upset.  I tell her she gets upset about things, too.  “I don’t get that upset about anything that isn’t involved with money,” she says.  I remember  being young and tough, too.  Only once writing is is involved I turn into an old, soft-bellied whiner.

Tomorrow or the next day I’ll be shrugging the whole thing off.  No big deal.  So why did I lie awake last night composing an email, and why do I feel so empty today?  I know what I have to do.  I have to pluck off the extra wing and put the old legs back on it, and I need to check out that beak really closely.  Then I’ll look at the extra wing, and the two legs that don’t match, and maybe the beak, and see if  I can make the original two wings look a little better, and it might be the legs do need some work — but by golly, I’m going to leave the beak the way I had it.  And pick up my little chick and love it and whisper to it and hope it starts cheeping and trotting around just a little again.

So it’s going to be okay.  But what I want to know is why can’t it be okay today?  Why does it bother us so much?

Why does it hurt so?

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3 Responses

  1. I get this. I really do. Sometimes the best meaning CP can do more harm than good. Nothing says you have to take the advice. Maybe you should get a second opinion of your chick. If another person attaches a third wing and alters the legs, then maybe you need to consider if there is some merit to the comments.

  2. It’s not that it only happens to me. I’ve done my share of cheering up other people. But unfortunately when it’s MY chick . . .

    As I said, tomorrow will be another day. Tonight I go to my crit group and we try again — perhaps I should warn them in advance that if anybody is unduly unkind, I will BITE.

  3. Sorry I’m late posting:(

    But I do understand. Finding a good critique partner is really hard. Currently, I don’t have one. Keri and I worked together for a while, but it was hard to keep up with Keri. I’m slow. She’s fast. After a while, things weren’t working (though she’s still good about reading my stuff if I beg her) I have someone I run plot by and who asks me questions, but no one reading it.

    I figure I’m not cut out for that sort of partnership right now. So I’ve evolved into maintaining a sort of plotting relationship. It works better for me.

    And you probably should let her know that she went too far in critiqing. Otherwise, she’ll do the same again. And you won’t want any of your chickens back.

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