I said to my critique partner this morning, The whole project is stinky it stinks it’s just nothing no hope.
I said, Yes, the first part of chapter 13 and the last part of chapter 13 are funny and very very good but there’s still no middle of chapter 13 and what there is stinks and anyway the other 47,000 words stink except for a few hundred here and there.
And she said, But the middle could be revised edited it has promise.
I said, But it won’t work because I have written myself into a hole and can’t get out so I have to trash that part and anyway the whole concept stinks.
And she said, NO you can fix it just keep going because I like Molly she’s so funny.
And that is why I go to critique group every blessed week.
The post above originally appeared on Whiskertips, September 13, 2009. A modified version is posted here by popular request.
Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
In April, I received the Silver Lining Award from writer and freelance editor Helen Ginger. Her blog, Straight from Hel, offers advice and information about writing and writers, books, publishing–there’s “God’s plenty” here for the writer, aspiring or experienced. Helen posts daily, and she also contributes to The Blood-Red Pencil, another blog I follow.
The Silver Lining Award was a surprise. I couldn’t wait to display it on to write is to write is to write and to pass it on to other bloggers.
But I ran into an obstacle. I didn’t know how to display it. I knew to use a widget, but how to grab or capture or whatever to get the proper code to put into that widget was outside my realm of experience. I knew I had to get the image to my computer. I knew I wasn’t supposed to link to the image on Helen’s blog. I knew I had to have its URL. Actually, all of this was inside my realm of experience, because I’d done something similar a couple of months before. I had just forgotten what and how.
The obvious thing to do in such a situation, after googling for instructions and increasing the confusion, is to ask for directions.
I don’t ask for directions. Anyone who has ever taken a road trip with me will vouch for that. When I get lost, I drive around until I find what I’m looking for. When lost in cyberspace, I click around.
So I clicked for a couple of hours. After engaging in mind-clearing activities, I clicked some more. I took a break and wrote a blog post about silver linings. I reminded myself this was not rocket science; it was a simple procedure. The next day, I clicked again. After skipping a few days, I clicked some more. I went to a conference. I spent a week recovering from the conference. I clicked. I fell into the Slough of Despond and decided I would never write again. I crawled out and decided I would. The entire time, both clicking and non-clicking, I was straining to dredge up the technical details of that brief moment of competency only sixty days past.
And all the while, the still, small voice was whispering, “Ask.”
But the truth is–and now I’m exposing my darkest secret–I like clicking around. I have such a feeling of accomplishment when things fall into place. I bump into all kinds of serendipities along the way. And I’m too ornery to give up. I can’t help that last thing. It’s genetic.
Sometimes it’s also a failing. I’m working on it.
Anyway, I finally discovered how to display the Silver Lining Award on my blog. Laboring along the road to discovery was an accomplishment. It was, in fact, a silver lining.
To Helen, a belated public thanks for giving me the this award. I’m supposed to pass it on to five other people. I nominate the following bloggers for the Silver Lining Award:
1. Susan Ideus
2. Linda Hoye
Ladies, thanks. You’re all silver linings to me.
When I was teaching English, I arranged for students to have pen pals. I don’t remember the details–whether I required them to participate in the project or promised those who did extra credit. I might have simply offered to send names to an agency to be matched with potential correspondents.
I do remember why I did it. I wanted to show them that writing could be fun. I wanted them to see it as more than essays and research papers, to understand that it could build bridges and form bonds and open new worlds.
I also wanted them to write freely, without fear of judgment, so after getting them started, I withdrew from the project.
Last week I received an e-mail from K.M., one of those students. She told me she and her pen pal have been corresponding for twenty-eight years. He’s coming from Australia this month to meet her.
She said she’s thrilled and ended with, “Thank you!”
I’m thrilled, too. Consider: how many letters, how many words they’ve written; how much they’ve learned; how much they’ve shared; how much has changed since they stamped and mailed those first envelopes. They’ve gone from pen and paper to e-mail. They’ve moved from adolescence to adulthood. Twenty-eight years. My mind boggles just thinking about it.
But I don’t deserve thanks. I spent probably less than an hour on the project. I got things going.
K.M. and her pen pal did the rest. They took an exercise and made it real. The bridge, the bond, the new world–everything I wanted for them, they did.
So thank you, K.M., for writing, and for telling me the rest of the story.
That’s one of the finest gifts I’ve ever received.