(Do you miss summer? I miss summer)
Though I majored in psychology for my four years of college, I still took writing classes. These classes made gestures at trying to critique or workshop, but frankly, most of the other students weren't up to it. Yeah, that's right, I said it. I still stand by it. So many of those students didn't have grasp of grammar, or vocabulary, or even a general idea of the vast body of literature from which we reference in our everyday lives. In one of those classes, I wrote a story that had a mermaid in it, who could not grant wishes to the fisherman who caught her (like those classmates, he was a little confused about his stories), and who sent him on a quest of sorts that he might get what he desires. My partner? "Oh, this reminds me of the Little Mermaid! So much!" Oh, did it? I don't even remember what her story was, but I remember trying as hard as I could not to jam my pen in her throat. I succeeded at that, anyway.
So, admittedly, I gird myself in thorns when it comes to critiques. I've been conditioned by people who didn't care, who didn't get it, and who weren't good readers or writers. I was better than them. Most of their "critiques" were to ask what a word meant. Seriously. This is college, people.
But, fast forward to now. As I've said, I haven't stopped writing. But I've stopped sharing. Not in a hermitage J.D. Salinger sort of way, but in a "don't know those kinds of people" sort of way. Any writing groups around here (I hear tell there are a few) meet when I'm at work. My friends do other things. Kelly isn't here (though I can email her).
And actually, having emailed Kelly my second draft of Learn to Howl is sort of what kicked off this thought process. I never had a writing class with Kelly, but she was an English major at the same college, my roommate during one of our four years, and persistently my best friend. I largely trust her opinion, and she's enjoyed my writing in the past. We have fun talking about things, writing and otherwise. She knows references. So, Kelly had Learn to Howl, and I was patiently awaiting her reply (please note, I am not being passive aggressive, I am just telling you the story). Then one day I saw on her Facebook an update in which she thanked somebody for helping her be a better editor/copy editor, because it was coming in handy.
I liked the status, as one did, because my heart leapt and I thought "OMG SHE'S READING IT!!!!1111ONEELEVEN". Then I thought "Oh my God, she's reading it. What's that supposed to mean? Leave my semicolons alone! Does it suck or something? What do you mean, in handy?" But, I stepped away. As it turns out, I don't think she was reading that, but rather copyediting something else. Y'know, that somebody is paying her for (which is awesome!). Unlike me, who is not.
Then I thought, "What the fuck, Jen?" When did I lose my confidence. I mean, this is draft two of a "serious" novel, sure. I already have some changes/additions/tweaks I'd like to make. I know it's not good enough to publish as is. In fact, on Day 1 of CampNaNoWriMo, I wrote the requisite words for the camp project (which I do hope to finish. We'll see how this goes), and then rewrote the beginning of Learn to Howl yet again. So why the thorns? Why the defenses? Kelly isn't one of those idiots back in the 200 level fiction course.
Neither are the people on Absolute Write. I've only shared two things on the Share Your Work portion of the forum. One was a short story which, admittedly, also needs work. The other was a query letter for Learn to Howl, because the way that letter currently looks, nobody's going to want to read this book. Or they will, if only to see if it's as confusing as the letter makes it look. Of course, there's also the fact that I'm writing a story about hereditary werewolves. DONE TO DEATH, I'm assured. Perhaps it is; however, I work at the library, and there's actually only so many of them that I've seen. And people are still reading them voraciously. So.
I'm not sure where my swagger went. I've gotten enough rejection letters for short stories, sure. But it's not like I'm all that used to people fawning over my writing either. I didn't expect the Absolute Write people to be all SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. There are a lot of good writers there. And a lot of people who have been at this for awhile. It's useful learning time again.