Saturday, October 17, 2015

Brave Days

Some people are brave all the time. For me, courage comes in waves.

I'm talking about the kind of waves that suck you under and hold you there until you think you'll never come back up again and then, at the very last possible minute, pick you up and throw you onto the beach. And the beach, in this particular metaphor, is where brave things happen. Maybe, probably, because there are no sharks on the beach and no water to drown in. It's always, always easier to do anything, especially anything considered 'brave', when you are not distracted by drowning or being eaten by a shark. 

What I'm trying to say is that I did something brave this week. 

There's this mentorship program at the Regina Public Library called the Writer-in-Residence Emerging Writer Connection. Basically, you make an appointment with the Writer-in-Residence and then bring in up to 20 pages of anything you've written. She looks it over, makes notes, and then you go in and sit with her and she gives you her professional feedback. 

It's an incredible opportunity, but it's also terrifying. It's one thing to send your work away to an anonymous literary agent in New York and have them write back that it's "not quite what they're looking for at the moment but thank you so much..." It's another thing entirely to sit face-to-face with someone you've only just met, someone who knows the publishing world and has already 'made it', and have them potentially hate every word you've put down on the paper. 

"Thanks so much for coming in, Suzy. Unfortunately, you are an awful writer and you use too many metaphors. You're like a fish who thinks it's a bird but isn't a bird and dies as soon as it hops out of the water."

What if she says that to me?

"Thanks so much for coming in, Suzy. Unfortunately, I lit your pages on fire one by one as I read them. They were that bad."

"Thanks so much for coming in, Suzy. I photocopied your pages and passed them out to all the librarians here; thanks for the laugh."

"Thanks so much for coming in, Suzy. Actually, I take that back: I wish you hadn't."

I would die. 

Pending death notwithstanding, I emailed her yesterday. I set up an appointment. I was having a Brave Day, and I know better than to waste those. 

(Thankfully, my friend Theresa signed me up for a writing workshop Dr. Nilofar is putting on at the library next week, which is nice because she won't be a complete stranger to me when I go in for my appointment in November.)

(NOVEMBER. November comes, like, right after October. Gulp.)

The problem with Brave Days is that they are always followed by Drowning Shark Coward Days, during which I second-guess and generally freak out about all of the decisions I made the day before. Today is that kind of day, so I'm writing it all out in an attempt to remember why I made the decisions I did yesterday. Like a person under the water reassuring themselves that the wave will push them up onto the beach again very soon. It's working, I think. 

Anyway. It really is exciting, and a privilege, to be a student, to learn how to do the thing you like doing better than you're doing it now (The WIR would probably ask me to reconstruct that sentence into something a person could actually read and understand, for example). If there's anything I've learned through this process, it's that you should always be learning. You should always be seeking out community and help and feedback and encouragement. And you shouldn't turn it down or avoid it just because you're afraid it won't be exactly what you want to hear (this is true of a lot of things in life, not just writing).

So, yes, I'm terrified. But I'm also excited. 

Cheers to Brave Days. 

12 comments:

  1. Oh man, this sounds terrifying but AMAZING. What a great experience! I would have so many of the same feelings if I were you but you will do great.

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    1. Thanks! I'm super excited. A great experience indeed. :)

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  2. "Drowning Shark Coward Days" - perfect!

    Well done! I'm betting she doesn't say any of those awful things - you write beautifully. Best of luck!

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  3. I like the way you do the thing that you like to do.

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  4. That's great. Don't worry, just go in with an open mind and try to detach your feelings from your work. The only thing that can come of this is your writing will get better. I don't know how you handle constructive criticism, it's not easy, but you have to trust that this woman knows more than you do about the thing you're learning/doing, and they're there to help. Let us know how it goes!

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    1. It's so true! And I already feel like I'm becoming a bigger fan of constructive criticism. Which is a good way to be, in general, I think. Life skills!

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  5. Dr. Shidmehr is really quite nice! I met her at the Introductory night; I'm sure you have nothing to worry about. There's another workshop coming up this weekend that you might be interested in at the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild annual conference. On Saturday morning, there will be a fiction workshop by Dianne Warren and you can still sign up through their website: www.skwriter.com. I'll be at the poetry workshop!

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    1. I'm so happy to hear that. Sweet.

      Also, thanks for the heads up on the workshops!! I'm off to check it out right now! (it'd be cool to run into you again. :))

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  6. Proud of you, Suzy! I love your writing, and I want more people to love it as your audience grows so cheering you on every step of the way! P.S. read your post above, too, sorry about the whole drinking vinegar thing ;)

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    1. Katie! You're always so encouraging. It's a gift. Thank you. :)

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