Regular readers may recognize my guest today from her prior post here on DeeScribes, Not Liking the Like. Crystal Thieringer, who shares her writing on her blog Muse and Meander, is a dear friend of mine and one of the classiest women I know. Her writing makes me think about ordinary matters in extraordinary ways, and challenges me to be more honest with myself and others. Plus, she’s one of my favorite Skype partners who always makes me feel better after a shared cup of tea via the Internet. I am honored she agreed to share a gratitude post for 30 Days of Thanks, especially considering Canadians celebrated their Thanksgiving last month.
All About Me
I was in high school when I first fancied calling myself a “writer” and to be honest, it didn’t go well. The story I crafted was about a young deaf boy who felt lost and misunderstood until he discovered falconry. I was proud of my tale, and filled with youthful confidence that my name would soon be on the spines of books like those I shelved every day at the library. I gave my story to one of my librarian colleagues, and asked her to critique it.
She did so, freely and honestly, exactly as I’d requested. I hadn’t anticipated that my writing was horrible. I thought it was a great story, and to realize she didn’t read all the fantastic-ness that I did was devastating. The experience stifled my creative writing for decades.
Though I seldom struggled with papers I had to submit for school, there was one in university concerning the history of medieval instruments that I’d dashed off during an all-nighter. I discussed what these instruments sounded like—and, having never heard them, I had no clue. My research was insufficient, and the professor who read it was not fooled. He failed the paper. He bluntly criticized my lack of comprehension and appreciation for the subject. He thought my similes were ridiculous and suggested I have more respect for readers.
Perhaps others can relate to how I was feeling. There were moments when I said to my bedroom wall, “How dare she!”, to my cat, “How could he!” and to God, “What do I do now?” I self-righteously declared that I didn’t have to listen to them, that my brilliant ideas were clearly above their feeble-mindedness, and that my precious prose was positively perfect. Make no mistake, it was quite dramatically all about me.
It’s easy to laugh at myself now but it certainly wasn’t then.
What I could not see at the time was how much these two people respected me. They saw something in me I couldn’t see in myself. They saw potential for brilliance—if I was willing to work at my craft. Of course their critiques hurt, but only because I was bound by feelings rather than being freed by substance.
Today I’m grateful they invested the time to say more than “it’s good,” especially when it wasn’t. I’m grateful they felt I was worth more than a passing glance, more than a brushing off. Because they were both kind and honest, I learned to critique my own work before I submit it to someone else, and I learned how to be more supportive of other people’s efforts. Because they cared about me in such a tangible way, I grew as a creative and as a thinker. Most importantly, I grew as a person.
Turns out, it really was all about me.