Tuesday, September 3, 2019

I still have doubts

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

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.

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?"


  1. Oh no. I am sorry for that experience. I really find criticism hard too, especially if there are no positives shared before the suggestions. I am sure there was plenty she liked about the poem. Maybe the next time, things will go better. I hope she asks to see your writing again and takes your advice.

  2. I feel as though our posts today are in a synergistic relationship. I, too, am sensitive about my writing. In fact, I’m a crier about it. My husband gets weary of my whining, I’m sure.

    You showed your friend the poem so she could see the possibilities for her writing. A critique was not an expectation, especially on a blog post already published. She needs a lesson in audience and purpose.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I’m proud of you for speaking up. 🤗

  3. I love how you wrote about this experience, which was certainly painful. The setup, the conversation, your comment that your friend "persisted," and then you bracket that supposedly positive "Nevertheless she persisted." It's perfectly understandable that you couldn't have thought first of asking her, "What did you like about this poem?" She shocked you with her response, which wasn't what you expected, and which hit you at your vulnerability. But did writing this post help get you to what you wished you'd said, or had you realized that before you started writing? Was this a case of "writing is thinking, not thinking written down"?