How do I keep coming back to dentistry? The relationship between my writing and a root canal, isn't really a correlation I care to examine too closely. Still, I found myself reclining in that oh so comfortable chair and I'll be damned if I didn't find something writing related to talk about.
You know I'm a big fan of criticism. I tout the wonders of critical feedback repeatedly. But I'm going to spin the tables here a touch and talk about the dark, ugly, un-helpful side of critique. . . and dentistry.
So while my hygienist is torturing...er cleaning my teeth. She engages in the classic dental industry chit-chat. But when she asks what I've been doing since our last session, I mention the writing. Silence. I realize my mouth is enjoying a sweet reprieve and I look questioningly at her.
She's taken the tools out and set them down, and she's staring at me.
Weird, I think. I broke her. But she starts to talk again, apparently forgetting the cleaning. What do I write, am I published, really????
Okay, so they train them to act interested, I understand that, but my hygienist was more than interested, she was excited. Turns out, she's always wanted to write a novel....hmmmmmmmm. You see, you never know who's a closet author.
I encourage her. You should definitely write one. She reveals to me, in hushed whispers that she already has the stories, lots of stories, more than twenty. I'm starting to feel a kinship when she breaks the trance.
She shakes her head and gives me a self-conscious laugh. But, no. I can't write. I tell her anybody can write. (should I be making it sound more elitist? Ah, what the heck. Anyone can do it.) Then she tells me that she showed her work to someone once, (little warning bells jingle in my head)and they told her she wrote like a Dental Hygienist.
Game over. She wasn't writing anymore.
I didn't get it at first. I thought, that's too bad. But it didn't take me long to think, HEY, you ARE a dental hygienist. Who the hell else are you supposed to write like?
When she started reaching for the tools again, I began to babble. Wait! You shouldn't let one comment stop you, write, write, WRITE!!
No good. I was getting that cleaning. sigh.
But seriously, now I not only have anxiety over all the stories I'M not getting to, I have anxiety for all the ones she's not writing. (It's all right, I have more than my share of anxiety.) So, this one, off-handed comment has basically killed the stories before they were even born. (I'm not going there.)
So, maybe we should be more responsible with feedback. Or maybe, she needs a thicker skin to make it as a writer. Maybe she'd never get past the idea of that first rejection letter. But Maybe she would. Maybe she'd wet her feet with friends' comments, build up confidence, find my blog and read all about the joys of having your work trashed...maybe.
It doesn't matter does it? Because even if she didn't ever show those stories to ANYONE. . . she wants to write them. She should write them. There was love in the whispered words, "I already have the stories." It was a secret, a treasured confession...She should write them.
I came home yesterday and my copy of Chris Baty's book, No Plot, No Problem had arrived in my mailbox. He'd signed it (or some wonderful mimic had) with two words. . .Write It!