“You’re getting better.”
Every once in a while I force-read a poem to my daughter. She knows I have this blog (she encouraged me to start it, to start writing again), but she seldom reads it, in most part because she really doesn’t like my writing. She’s a writer in her own right with a style very different from mine. And very different tastes. (We clash musically as well. No surprise. We have a very narrow band of overlapping likes that we can stick to if we have to be in the same space for long.) Still, every so often I make her listen to something I’ve written, just to get some feedback, even if it’s a bland, “Oh, that’s nice, Mom.”
This time I chose last Friday’s post, Ancient Lines. I was expecting a verbal pat on the head, so her reaction surprised me. My reaction to her reaction surprised me too:
”No, I’m not.”
Her innocent expression of support, no doubt intended to be encouraging, ran through a filter in my head and ended up sounding like this: Wow, you finally wrote something that doesn’t suck. Everything else so far has been crap. I felt just the teensiest bit offended (you know, the way mothers and daughters so effortlessly make each other feel).
I went into defensive mode. I didn’t think Ancient Lines was that much better than anything else, in fact I like some of my older stuff better. I chose to read that one to her, because I thought she might like it better, not because I thought it was a significant improvement of my writing overall.
Of course, as the day went on, I found myself thinking, “What if she’s right?” She might be. I’m no good at predicting which poems will be liked and which ignored. (Actually, I am, but in reverse: if I think it’s going to be a hit, it won’t be.) What does that say about me? my taste? Can I honestly say that something I’ve written is good or not? Shouldn’t I leave those judgements to others who know better?
After torturing myself for a day, I decided I had to let it go. I write what I like to read (at least I try to). There’s a lot of excellent writing in the world that I don’t enjoy. My not liking it doesn’t make it bad anymore than someone’s not liking what I write makes my stuff bad. I don’t want to let fear of criticism shut me down (been there too many times). We need more people writing their rhymes and verses, drawing their pictures, singing their songs. If something I write resonates with someone else, that’s wonderful. (I mean that sincerely. Having even one person like a post makes me very happy.) But if it resonates only with me? Well, that’s wonderful too. That’s why I write.