I have a dear friend who is spending lots more time on writing, now that she is retired. All of her writing is private, just between her and her keyboard. I've told her about my blogging, trying to encourage her to share her voice with others. Recently, when she visited me, we sat together and I brought up my blog on my computer and showed her several of my entries. She quietly read a poem I had written and then said decisively,
"You should end the poem in the exact way you began it...see these two lines here? You should repeat these at the end."
It surprises me that her minor critique bothered me so. I guess I have a very, very thin skin. Honestly, I do not like criticism. Even criticism presented kindly from a dear friend. It stings. It cuts. It hurts.
In a split second, all these ugly thoughts went ripping through my mind -
CONDESCENDING - How can she possibly know what she's talking about? She's never blogged before!
DEFENSIVE - That was a draft poem, not one I have finished. Plus, hasn't she missed my point? Doesn't she see the point of the poem?
PERPLEXED - Why did she think she should be editing my work when I am simply sharing?
I said nothing and immediately tried to clear that blogpost off the computer screen and move to another, while quietly seething.
Unfortunately, she persisted.
(NEVERTHELESS SHE PERSISTED!)
She said, "No, look, read these two lines...think what the poem would look like if you repeated these lines - it would be great."
I stopped swallowing my voice and replied,
"Dear friend, when you read someone's writing - especially mine -give compliments only, you should share what you LIKE about my writing."
She continued, "but..."
I interrupted her interruption: "No. No 'but,' please, no. Just stop. I am showing you my creativity. It hurts to have your only response to my writing be a critique."
Then I shared with her about a book talk by Jacqueline Woodson this past summer, which I had the delight of attending. Ms. Woodson shared so much wisdom about writing, and touched on this very thing. She - the author of so many award-winning books - said about her writing,
"I still have doubts."
I found those four words so comforting. Ms. Woodson said that whenever she shares her writing with others, she says "Tell me what you LOVE about it."
I'm not sure my friend understood just how vulnerable I feel about my writing. I know she believed she was helping me. We sat in awkward silence for a bit, and then I closed the computer and we went for a nice long walk together.
I feel so aware of all the flaws of my writing, the last thing I need is an echo chamber about these.
I wish that I had asked her,
"What do you like about this poem?"