Are You Ready to Be Exposed?

The workshop instructor walked into the classroom and started writing without saying a word. Rule #1: No stories about dead pets or dead grandmothers.

A young writer raised her hand, the instructor nodded, and she asked, “Why not? Those stories come loaded with emotions that will surely touch the reader.”

The instructor took a few steps and stood in front of the young writer’s desk. “How would you feel when someone says your grandmother was a real bitch?”

“My grandmother was no such thing!” The writer leaned back, away from the instructor.

The instructor pressed on. “What will you say when a reader tells you that you treated your dog like a nice pair of shoes?”

“Sparkles was a happy dog!” The writer’s chair squeaked as she tried to get away from the instructor.

The instructor walked back to the board. “And that is the reason why I don’t want any stories about dead pets or dead grandmothers.” He underlined his #1 rule with one shrieking stroke of his chalk. “Or about anything that might be so close to you that you are not ready to hear what people really think about it.”

***

That episode came back to me a couple of days ago as I read an email sent to me by a bloggy friend. He wanted to apologize for removing a comment I left on one of his posts. It was actually a guest post, and the guest poster didn’t think that my comment was the kind of emotion/response he wanted his work to inspire.

Hm…

Hm…

Hm…

Well… I wanted to keep my mouth shut about this one, but… I couldn’t. I just feel too terrible about an artist who produces work, makes it available to the public and expects people to see exactly what he wants. That doesn’t happen. The reader, viewer, listener… might see what the artist intended, but they will see other things too; emotions and ideas inspired by their own experiences.

Art is alive, and that is what makes it so delightful. People look, examine and digest art with their senses, heart and soul; no artist can control that process (and thank goodness for that!).

Long story short, if you are not ready to hear that your dead grandmother was a real bitch, or that dead Sparkles was only cute when he wasn’t shitting and yawping, then don’t write about them. And if you must, then keep it to yourself or only show it to people who you know will lie to you.

Don’t create work and publish it, if you are not ready to be exposed.
  
No offence meant to dead grandmothers or dead puppies or zombies.

18 comments:

  1. Actually seeing what reactions I get from other people is one of the interesting things about writing... You can't second guess it. Unless people are being deliberately rude or ignorant or spamming (ie leaving comment to promote their business "Ooh, what a lovely party! Next time buy supplies from partyspam.com" type of thing), I always leave comments on my blogs alone.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's why one should think twice about writing very emotional stuff (and publishing it). I wouldn't give people a hammer and say, "You want to hit my thumb"? it's difficult enough already to take negative criticism when all you're worried about is whether they'll recognize your genius or not.

    (Or at least that is my greatest worry.)

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  3. My grandmother was a bitch from the center of hell, and although I loved Marcie, she was by far the fattest, laziest dog, smart, but laziest dog on the planet. If those two things are the only ideas you can pull from to get an emotional response, other than my upchuck reflex, you need to reconsider your writing career, I'm just saying...

    There have been many a rant blog I have put up and taken down simply because I needed to purge my soul, not necessarily have Joe Schmo decide to tell me to kill myself. I put out what I want read. I read every comment and comment on as many as I can. I will say thank you, even if I am doing the "look at how pretty my middle fingers are!" dance at the same time lol.

    I am a writer. Could I survive a writing class, nope, because I write what my spirit pours out, and that shit will never be published. At least, I hope not...for the sake for humanity, I hope not.

    \IiiI

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  4. Sparkles loved me, goddammit.

    ReplyDelete
  5. That works well as a flash too. =)

    I agree with you absolutely, I used to wonder about the wisdom of analysing other people's work and poems (the classics, and so on). How could we possibly know what they were trying to say...?

    But that wasn't the point, I know now. The point is to analyse something in its societal context, to analyse how it affected its readers.

    You create something and you let it go. Once it's published it belongs to interpretation, it belongs to the world.

    If you have to tell people what they should feel upon reading it, then that's your failing, not theirs.

    Of course, there's nothing wrong with discussing the differences between intent and result as well... it's all a learning process. =)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Bliss Doubt2/22/2011

    Yes, it slays me that some blog owners must approve comments before they are posted, and some get so hurt and offended when negative comments come in. It's like you're only supposed to comment "great photos. have a nice day", and some blogs do have only that sort of comment showing. On the issue of writing about dead grandmothers or pets, I don't think it's a matter of how emotionally attached to the subject you are, or how biased your thinking, but how good you are at writing about it. Maybe a great love of the subject will inspire your writing? I dunno.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I wrote a short play once that I was really proud of. I brought it over to a friend's house where she and another friend began acting it out in her living room and laughing hysterically....it was not written as a comedy. Although I was initially really hurt, I got over that pretty quickly and thought, "Man, good thing I did not send this in to that writing contest!!" What did I learn? Yes, my friends could have been a little nicer about it, but I was glad for their honesty in the end. If you want to publish your work--great. Ignore the chodes who say ridiculous things, but take whatever CONSTRUCTIVE criticism you can.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I totally agree, whats the point in publishing if you don't like the response you may get! Be wide open and take it or crawl back in the closet and keep it to yourself I say. ****sorry, pixie in a bad ass mood lol*

    ReplyDelete
  9. I do delete trolling, but I have Policy #237 for people who seem to read way, way more into something, or draw critical conclusions that I can't figure out how the buggerall they arrived at. I try some version of "I was trying to convey that I think chocolate should be the fifth food group. What would you change about the passage to express that more clearly?" Some come up with good points. Some just keep sputtering about how that proves what an incompetent bitch I am, with a side note about how my ego is obviously so big it can't handle the truth.

    The first group gets Beer & Cookies. The second gets the trollicidal spray.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Rachel - I know exactly what you mean. When I read my writing aloud or share with others and they come up with something I had never thought about, it makes me feel nice. It's like my writing is alive and it can do things all by itself.

    Diandra - I see your genius all the time and sometimes it scares the crap out of me ;-)

    Penny - I knew I love you for reasons other than your good looks; you ruthless zombie you lol

    Debra - I know and I'm sure Sparkles did too, now stop wearing that leash around your neck; Sparkles wouldn't approve.

    John - "Once it's published it belongs to interpretation, it belongs to the world." Yep, once you write them out your babies aren't yours. And discussing their impact, meaning and the feelings they evoke is what life is about.

    Bliss Doubt - I can understand why some people want their comments moderated; there are some idiots/stalkers out there, but to delete something just because it wasn't exactly what you wanted to hear, is like going through life with blinders.

    Just a Gal - It's all about the constructive criticism.

    Pixie - I hope you are in a better mood now. I'm going to check up on you. Don't pix anyone!

    Snoozepossum - Once a wrote a short story about an ant that really hated daisies. Those who read it concluded the author hated nature. I told myself that I did a really good job showing the ants feelings and nodded a lot. Most of what people said about the piece never crossed my mind, but hey, it was a good conversation. And there were chocolate cookies ;-)

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  11. the people who comment on my blog come from all sorts of walks of life. Some of them are gorgeous and genius and amazing and awe inspiring. Some of them? Well, I don't know why they keep coming back.

    Nor do I know why they keep leaving comments.

    But I leave everything up, mostly because if someone slams me, my gorgeous genius amazing readers tear them limb from limb in my comment section!

    All in all, I love reading or hearing what the stuff I write makes people feel. Even if it is totally different from what I meant to say or sort of hurtful.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I know exactly what you mean. Every time someone gets, um, smart with me, there are at least five Wicked Darlings ahead of me telling them where to shove their nasty comments. Isn't that precious? lol

    ReplyDelete
  13. the people who comment on my blog come from all sorts of walks of life. Some of them are gorgeous and genius and amazing and awe inspiring. Some of them? Well, I don't know why they keep coming back.

    Nor do I know why they keep leaving comments.

    But I leave everything up, mostly because if someone slams me, my gorgeous genius amazing readers tear them limb from limb in my comment section!

    All in all, I love reading or hearing what the stuff I write makes people feel. Even if it is totally different from what I meant to say or sort of hurtful.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I do delete trolling, but I have Policy #237 for people who seem to read way, way more into something, or draw critical conclusions that I can't figure out how the buggerall they arrived at. I try some version of "I was trying to convey that I think chocolate should be the fifth food group. What would you change about the passage to express that more clearly?" Some come up with good points. Some just keep sputtering about how that proves what an incompetent bitch I am, with a side note about how my ego is obviously so big it can't handle the truth.

    The first group gets Beer & Cookies. The second gets the trollicidal spray.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I wrote a short play once that I was really proud of. I brought it over to a friend's house where she and another friend began acting it out in her living room and laughing hysterically....it was not written as a comedy. Although I was initially really hurt, I got over that pretty quickly and thought, "Man, good thing I did not send this in to that writing contest!!" What did I learn? Yes, my friends could have been a little nicer about it, but I was glad for their honesty in the end. If you want to publish your work--great. Ignore the chodes who say ridiculous things, but take whatever CONSTRUCTIVE criticism you can.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I totally agree, whats the point in publishing if you don't like the response you may get! Be wide open and take it or crawl back in the closet and keep it to yourself I say. ****sorry, pixie in a bad ass mood lol*

    ReplyDelete
  17. That works well as a flash too. =)

    I agree with you absolutely, I used to wonder about the wisdom of analysing other people's work and poems (the classics, and so on). How could we possibly know what they were trying to say...?

    But that wasn't the point, I know now. The point is to analyse something in its societal context, to analyse how it affected its readers.

    You create something and you let it go. Once it's published it belongs to interpretation, it belongs to the world.

    If you have to tell people what they should feel upon reading it, then that's your failing, not theirs.

    Of course, there's nothing wrong with discussing the differences between intent and result as well... it's all a learning process. =)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Bliss Doubt8/16/2011

    Yes, it slays me that some blog owners must approve comments before they are posted, and some get so hurt and offended when negative comments come in. It's like you're only supposed to comment "great photos. have a nice day", and some blogs do have only that sort of comment showing. On the issue of writing about dead grandmothers or pets, I don't think it's a matter of how emotionally attached to the subject you are, or how biased your thinking, but how good you are at writing about it. Maybe a great love of the subject will inspire your writing? I dunno.

    ReplyDelete