(Please forgive the small font. I cut and pasted it from my Evernote files and am unable to increase its size.)
It’s a pouring rainy night in mid-Manhattan. I’m already worrying about getting a ride back to my upper west side apartment after the session at Gotham Writers Workshop. Will there even be a cab, or will I have to resort to hiring an Uber? And how much will that cost?
The new pair of rubber rain boots I ordered from Amazon hadn’t arrived. They were half the price of the ones on Zappos. The identical boots! But now, there are puddles galore, and my low black suede booties aren’t going to cut it walking through the river-sized puddles they have here in the city.
I’d much rather obsess about my transportation and boot issues than subject myself to the information my body is giving me at this moment. My heart is beating double-time in my chest. My hands are visibly shaking and my teeth are actually chattering in my mouth. But my lips are closed, so no one notices, not that they’d be looking at me anyway. I do not want to convey to anyone in the classroom that I’m anything but cool, calm and collected. It’s my night to be ‘in the booth’ during my Advanced Memoir class at Gotham.
I pushed my way into this class thinking, I don’t need that beginner nonsense. No Level 1 Memoir Writing for me. I’m a published author. I blog. I was married to an English teacher for 38 years. What could I possibly have to learn?
You know that classic movie line: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” That was my attitude.
Turns out, I had a lot to learn. There were a few minor holes in the 25 page submission I’d handed out the week before. Little things like, oh, not having a Major Dramatic Question, or repeatedly leaving the reader hanging with a provocative, unanswered last question at the end of some of my chapterettes. These were pointed out with kindness and courtesy by the instructor and each of my fellow students.
One at a time. For forty minutes. I know. My recording device, which I had on because I can go unconscious when I hear anything resembling criticism, recorded the time as well. I kept my head down, my pen poised on the open page of my spiral notebook ready to also take written notes on the wisdom of the educated, or as Cullen pointed out, my readers.
That was simply a ploy to not make eye contact with anyone during the feedback session. Having my precious words dissected over and over by my peers felt like going through security at airports. Only the x-ray machine at Gotham were the eyes of everyone present seeing the skeleton of my soul.
Having weathered that experience, I can tolerate feedback and even welcome it now six months later. As Cullen, my instructor reminded me, his only agenda is to make me a better writer. I’m experiencing that, and am deeply grateful.