What’s the Best Part of Writing? Writing. What’s the Worst Part of Writing? Writing.
Photo via www.thedailyfemme.com
I recently received a letter of critique from an acclaimed Jewish female novelist. I do not know her personally. My brother shares a mutual friend with this author and when meeting her said “My sister is an aspiring writer, perhaps you can take a peek at her writing samples and guide her a bit?” Thank you, dear brother.
I was willing to send this writer (let’s call her Madame W) a few college thesis papers to evaluate. Well-researched and analyzing Bronte, Faulkner, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, my college essays are certainly more refined and *ahem* grammatically correct than my fashion-centric blog posts. Or so I hope.
Yet unknown to me, Madame W had already glanced at Wear Your Invisible Crown with the austere, Judge Judy-ish eyes of a creative writing professor. Oy vey.
Her e-mail was the first one I saw in the morning. My right pointer shakily clicked on the tab, while my other hand clutched a coffee mug for much-needed soothing. Once I opened the e-mail, my eyes frantically jumped from terms like “writerly self-consciousness” to critiques like “misuse of punctuation” and “language exuberance.”
Pitter. Patter. Thump. Thump. My heart was having an energizing field day—and not the good kind. I took a sip of my mucky instant coffee and breathed in deeply. I read the e-mail again. Okay, Dilemma 1: “Writerly Self-Consciousness.” What the heck does that mean? Okay, next—Dilemma 2: “Misuse of Punctuation.”
Oh, Grammar, how I hate thee.
I certainly realize that my punctuation can use polishing and honing. In fact, I’m convinced that my current syntax is hate-fodder for Grammar Nazis worldwide. What can I do to alleviate my spiteful relationship with semicolons, colons, and G-d knows what else? I ought to pick up a “How To” grammar guide from the library. Apparently, studying English Literature for three years hasn’t done the job.
Dilemma 3: “Language Exuberance” Now, this dilemma is one acrid pill that still needs to be swallowed. Supposedly, my speech is a bit too florid and overdone. I tend to choose words like “kaleidoscopic” instead of “colorful” and “don” instead of “wear.”
Can I make a confession though? I can’t help it. It’s like I have this malady that makes me cling on to posh and possibly pretentious-sounding vocabulary. I think they call it “Fancy-word-culosis.” In fact, my love for the English language (excluding its annoying grammatical rules of course) is what made me want to be a writer. I love how words like “grandiloquent” and “myopic” sound on the tip of my tongue. I swish these words around in my mouth like a cupful of Listerine. Gurgling them and allowing them to cleanse my palate from the vapidity of terms like “nice” and “thing” always feels good. But according to Madame W, I should quit using this particular brand of mouthwash and switch to a simpler, organic one.
After reading this e-mail—three, four, five times—I felt distinctly hollow. For the rest of the day I was a languishing shell of a girl. What’s the use of writing? I pouted over and over again. The only compensation is a barrage of criticism from authors and editors. (Madame W, if you are reading this, I am thankful for your critique although it may not seem like it).
Madame W signed off her e-mail with this line: “I expect that this is not what you wanted to hear but welcome to the writer’s life. It’s a tortured profession. Sometimes I wish I was better at math and science so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the inherent hardships of being a writer.”
Don’t we all feel that way Madame W?
Nevertheless my fellow authors, artists, musicians, dancers, journalistic photographers, and all other creative-bound hearts, we shall not fall into the accursed cage of despair. Instead we will continue to work on our respective crafts with the fiery determination of Van Gogh, J.K. Rowling, and Susan Boyle. Each one had to contend with a hurdle of killjoys but eventually gazed at the crowd with gloriously triumphant eyes.
P.S. Notice the choice of words “accursed” and “gloriously.”
There are some things I am not quite ready to give up on.
Sorry Madame W.