Have Guts, Show Yourself

If you’ve ever taken a writing workshop you’ll know it’s like having strangers tear your ego apart.  And by ego I mean that thing that you carry around with you like a heavy cloak on your arm – ready to duck behind at any moment.  Or maybe it’s over your shoulders, like mine is – hiding most of what I think of as unbearable for others to see.

The first fifteen pages I submitted was what I thought of as writing.  There were complicated phrases and long passages – all of which added up to a few moody characters that I had become attached to over time.  Once I showed them to my fellow workshop participants, I thought differently.

Getting ripped up by a bunch of strangers is as difficult as it sounds.  Still, after the first critique I felt exhilarated.  I had shown some people I didn’t know more than I had shown some people I had known my whole life. I owed them a revision, one that made the best use of their comments – or I’d be stuck with some shredded up pieces of wool standing in for a shawl covering well into the winter

So I spent a week or two replacing most of what I thought was good about my writing with new writing. Instead of being writerly I tried being readerly – talking more to myself and the people in my workshop – then some wide audience I hoped would someday read a book that wasn’t even written.  The results were much better.

I am starting to see that writing is a constant practice of removing everything you thought was worthwhile and revealing everything you’re sure is not.  People liked the writing better because my desire to show myself came through.   But now that I have this new outer layer that’s silky and flowery, with a nice neckline and a modest waist, can’t I just stay covered?

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