What’s Black & White and Read All Over?

26 Feb

I realized I have not posted my articles as published in The Globe and Mail (when you click on the link, scroll down a bit and the story is on the right side of the page). Going through the writing process, in Vancouver, was easy enough for me, once I got over the nerves and doubt, you know the little voice in your head that likes to, sometimes, rain on your parade? I do a lot of writing but it is not what I would call ‘journalism’. It is definitely creative fiction that I spend my time working on. Of that writing, I am quirkily, oddly and perhaps absurdly over-protective. I don’t share my fiction writing with anyone. It makes me feel sick to my stomach to think about sharing it or showing it to anyone.

There have been exactly two occasions when I have shared my writing. One instance – maybe 6 years ago – occurred when I let the husband read about 20 pages of a story I had been working on. Happily that went very well – his feedback was helpful and his comments very supportive. Biased, or not! Ever since then, though, he wants to see more of my writing and wants to know what is happening with ‘the girls’ from the bit he read. I don’t like that one bit. I find it invasive and uncomfortable. So silly!

The second occasion of sharing took place about 3 years ago. I had decided to take the plunge and join a local writing group. (This only after several conversations with a writer friend whom I trust and respect. His encouragement to ‘give it a try’ really allowed me to be a little more open to the group process.) The woman who started the writing group had become an acquaintance through the book group I attend. She is also a writer and had mentioned her group to me. I attended several meetings and managed to evade contributing my work for scrutiny. Of course, that only lasted so long and eventually I was asked. I felt too protective of any of the current projects I was working on so I opted to create a new piece to offer my group-mates. I was pleased with what I created but didn’t feel emotionally attached or invested in the piece. Well, come the day I had been worried about, I was a mess beforehand. I had physical pains in my belly and wanted to throw-up. Charming, I know. I even, briefly, thought about not going to the group meeting but that would be too sucky. If nothing else, I am a glutton for pain and punishment. Okay, maybe not a glutton but the tolerance level is absurdly, ridiculously high! (Also another genetic trait with the women in our family.) So, I went and gave out my work. With the meetings we would talk about projects we were working on and anything related to writing. Then, at the end of the meeting copies of work would be handed out to be read and critiqued at home and then brought back to the next meeting.

A few days after our writing group meeting, my phone rang. It was one of the members from writing group. She was calling about my piece. I took a big breath and waited for, I don’t know what, but I felt the need to brace myself. Well, what came next caused me a bit of embarrassment but was a tremendous (if short-lived) boost to the writing ego. The feedback I was offered was very positive and bordered on gushing. I don’t take compliments well so this is why I felt embarrassed. It was awkward for me hearing good things about my writing. Anyway, my critic made a literary comparison between my work and the work of a known, published author that floored me. “I have no response to that.” I uttered. I still don’t. The first person to guess to whom my work was compared wins a free book! Seriously. I know it is a huge stab in the dark, but give it a shot! I offer one clue – it is a male fiction writer. If you know me and know this story, you can’t play! Sorry!!

Since then I haven’t shared any fiction writing. I don’t truly understand what my resistance is all about so, if you have any ideas please send them my way! I suffered the implosion of my hard drive and lost 90% of all of my writing. It was the scream heard ’round the road the day that happened. Followed by the tears of anger at myself. I hadn’t done a recent back-up because I was either naively detached or cockily arrogant. I had never had any computer problems, ever, so I was blase about regular back-ups. I lost my entire hard drive that day, including 3 novels in various states of completion – 300+ pages, 170+ pages and 90+ pages – and many, many ideas in different stages of hatching.

When this happened I was so defeated; I didn’t write anything for nearly one year. It was a bad time in my small bit of the world for many reasons but the lack of writing as an outlet was an additional challenge to overcome. Now that I am back into writing mode. I am hopeful to complete a novel this year but don’t ask me about it, please! :)

My recent journalism experience has also tweaked an long-held interest so ‘things’ may develop in that area also. This type of writing does not feel as personal to me and I don’t have any qualms about ‘putting it out there’, the way I do with my fiction writing. Both styles of writing are wonderful and I like each of them for different reasons. Wherever the path leads now, I am enjoying this feeling of possibility!

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6 Responses to “What’s Black & White and Read All Over?”

  1. Elspeth 26 February 10 at 4:21 pm #

    No wonder you were so upset at loosing your hard drive. I had no idea how much was on there. Backup, Backup, Backup. Why do we learn lessons the very hard way. I think that too is a family tradition. Tears, Clara brought the most for me. Joannie, that is just too much to think about. I saw both of her programs after the fact. I think 10:30 pm EST is my limit of staying up late. Can I win? I know the answer and can be bribed!!

    • jojo 27 February 10 at 1:06 pm #

      No..you can’t win. Shame on you for encouraging bribery! :)

  2. Anita Birt 26 February 10 at 6:37 pm #

    Here is your wicked Great Aunt asking about your writing. I want to read it!!! Jennifer, this is not life or death. How about sending me a few pages?

    I no longer belong to a critique group. I did for years but suddenly didn’t want to produce 2500 new words every two weeks from my WIP.I’m concentrating on my Memories, my recipe blog and revising a historical manuscript which is finished and needs some fine turning before sending it out.

    Here’s a deal. I’ll send you the first five pages of my historical novel if you’ll send me something of yours. DO NOT GET SICK. We are tough women. I can’t remember the last time I fell apart. Age is wonderful.

    • jojo 27 February 10 at 5:52 pm #

      Hi Auntie Nita.

      Oh, I know we are tough women. I can still feel sick though! :)

      I left the writing group because I was really getting nothing out of it. Also, I really prefer plodding through on my own and the other writers weren’t a great match for me. I really want to attend the Humber School for Writing which is a summer one week intensive. I debate it every year but a) it is expensive and b) it requires work being shared. I am such a dip-stick, or a Helen Edna would say “a lily-livered sap-sucker”. Hahaha!

      Thanks for the offer…I will keep you in mind, definitely, should I feel ready to share some work and want feedback/input.

      xo

  3. Judy Collins 3 March 10 at 5:00 pm #

    I think one of your strengths is writing about the people you meet. You seem to be very observant in crowds, able to pick out a unique experience or hint of one. If you tear so will others, whether it be for sadness or joy. Just a thought.

    • jojo 3 March 10 at 8:38 pm #

      Aw, thanks Judy!

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