It’s been two years since I applied to my first writing workshop at Humber School for Writers with a piece full of profound observations about life, love and unhealthy patterns, I thought was great. It was memoir, so anything goes - right? A cerebral romp, if well turned, is sure to have everyone on the edge of their seats.
David Hayes, a long-time journalist and friend of a friend, offered to have a look at the piece. The feedback he provided was fulsome, thoughtful, and a sharp knife to my writerly heart. I was more sensitive back then. Now I only sob over actual rejection, not constructive evisceration.
To soften the blow, David began with himself. He told me he’d written a novel he’d sent to his editor. The first twenty pages were filled with deep eloquent musings about life – a perfect introduction. When the editor got back to him he said he loved the story, but lose the first twenty pages and get right to it.
At least David had a story at the end of his 20 pages. I had 160 of the sound of my own voice. I was pitching a heap of relationship theory I’d gleaned from experiences I hadn’t bothered to share.
I may sound dim, but I didn’t realize I had to.
I was accepted into the Humber program. As far as I can see, short of formulaic Harlequin romance or adult fiction a.k.a. hard-core porn, everything gets accepted. (regardless, the course was fabulous and inspirational) My teacher reiterated David’s views saying my writing reminded her of her own journal entries. Not possible I thought. People can’t waste such great material on a journal they keep tucked away in a drawer, and anyway her private thoughts couldn’t possibly be as clever and interesting as mine.
While I thanked David at the time I didn’t mean it with all my heart. I do now. He was the first of a number of people I respect to give it to me straight, and set me on the right track. I have read many memoirs since, so I get it.
Why am I talking about this now? Well, if there’s one place for theoretical musings, public bitching, complaining, self-deprecation and the odd celebration, it’s on a blog. The proof? You are choosing to take your precious time and read it.
My old friend Jamie posted a message on the blog a while back saying he was reading me regularly and was ready for a story.
I guess I feel I am telling you a story. It’s the one about my struggle to be a writer. In part I need to whine (which I do well) and I like to hear that others relate to what I’m going through. I should also confess that submissions to magazines and journals must be unpublished. So while blogs don’t count as publications in many contexts - “Oh, you self-publish? How sweet. No you can’t include it in your list of publications to apply for this grant” – they do in others.
It might sound like I’m keeping the good stuff back for the real readers, the ones that might one day pay me $25 or $50 a piece. Not so. Really, I just want a place to tell this particular story, in all its laughable and humiliating detail, to a growing number of people.
Blogging IS writing. It’s not just passing time waiting for the real thing. I love blogging and of course I desperately want to be loved. So this is what you get.