(First, a major congratulations to Brant Hansen on his new job as “Storyteller” with CURE Hospitals! I know he’ll be brilliant at it and CURE is such a fantastic organization; they heal kids, the ABSOLUTE least of these, in the name of Jesus. If you want to learn more about CURE, click here. If you want to read Brant’s blog or listen to his podcasts, click here. Second, I had a hard time coming up with this week’s blog post but, then, I had a conversation with a friend this weekend that helped inspire what you’re about to read.)
“Nice essay, Cindy!”
These were the words that greeted me when I opened up an e-mail alerting me that my instructor had reviewed my most recent essay. Those words were truly unexpected.
For as long as I can remember, my writing has always been praised. I rarely received anything lower than a B on my research papers, essays, and articles. The exceptions to this were the two creative writing classes I took in college. Though I love telling stories and thought I was a good writer, the red ink of my teachers’ pens told me otherwise. I did well in both classes, after MUCH hard work, but I had my reservations of whether I had what it took to become a novelist.
After a couple of years of no creative writing, I found NaNoWriMo, an event that encourages people to write a 50,000+ word novel in one month. I had so much fun with it, I’ve participated for the past eight years.
There were a couple of problems.
First, after writing these rough draft novels, I never did anything with them. They’ve stayed languishing in my flash drives and in my Google Drive, not ever seeing the light of day. Second, I was too scared to get my work critiqued. The fear of being told I wasn’t good enough to cut it as a writer was greater than my desire to improve my writing. I was afraid any harsh words would kill my dream rather than propel it forward.
I knew I couldn’t continue like that, especially if I have aspirations to share my work with the world, so I signed up for an online writing class this summer. I went in nervous, but too confident. My first two essays bombed and my instructor pointed out all the reasons why they weren’t my best. My ego was so kicked down, I considered giving up on the class and on writing. I wallowed in self-pity for a few days. However, after getting over myself, I decided to stick it out. I remembered my reasons for taking this class and realized the harsh critique was for my benefit. With that in mind, I wrote my third essay.
“Nice essay, Cindy!”
There were still a few errors, but my instructor did like it and I showed definite improvement. I was thrilled and grateful. Of course, the only way to get there was to be shown where I had failed in the previous two essays.
So, am I on my way to perfection?
Nah. No writer on this planet can write the perfect manuscript in the first sitting.
However, I’m learning that constructive criticism is not an indictment on my ability as a writer; it’s a tool that will take my ability from “good” to “great.”