Friday, January 02, 2009

Negative critics

I have been writing since high school. I was a newspaper reporter, photographer, editor and publisher over a 14-year period. I started college (an education major) at age 28. I returned to college at age 54 to complete my bachelor's degree. I have sold some sweet romances to a magazine and the editor asked where I was going with my writing--"We need to talk." My female professors tell me that my writing skills are excellent. The male prof, Dr. E. gave me an A- for Senior Seminar (English major requirement) because "it's your first semester back to college after a long period of time." This same prof, teaching Shakespeare, gave me a B+ because my writing is "incohesive." So I let him know that my evaluation for his Shakespeare class was a B+. I was especially concerned about the 15 class hours we did not receive instruction because only two or three of us showed up for class and he canceled, sent us home. He didn't want to put a heavy "burden" on those of us who did show up. But I thought this was a lecture class so the burden was actually on him. If students care so little about showing up for every class, why would he feel the need to make the lecture twice? And wouldn't the burden be on him, not the students? Except when he came in and said, "I'm tired. I don't feel like teaching tonight so I'm going to let you students talk tonight."

This prof criticized my starting an occasional sentence with "And..." I guess he hasn't looked at the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This book is not broken down into chapters. It's one scene after another from beginning to end. And there are a lot of sentences that are actually sentence fragments. I'll bet this prof of mine would have discouraged McCarthy even submitting the manuscript to a publisher, this book that was actually honored by Oprah's Book Club. I didn't want to put it down! The sentence fragments didn't bother me, or the absence of apostrophes in words like can't or won't. The story is that good.

In all of my years of writing, Dr. E. is the first person to tell me my writing is "incohesive." I interpret that to mean he is saying that I am a "bad" writer.

Why am I sharing this in my blog? Because, as I told Dr. E., if he is the only person in 20-plus years to say I am a bad writer, I have to believe he is wrong and that I am a very good writer, which will be proven when I complete my senior/honors project (completing a novel), defend it through its review process, achieve my graduation and submit the novel to a publisher. Did Dr. E. think an older woman like me had no business attending college? I don't know and I don't care. I know I have to believe in myself to succeed. How I talk to myself, negative or positive, is what will determine my failure or success. Positive self-talk => Success.

So, ignore your naysayers. Don't think negative thoughts. If you know you are a good writer, believe it, trust it, do it. And ignore those who would discourage you, convince you that you have nothing important to say, "incohesive" writing skills.

As for my male prof who says my writing is "incohesive," I can only say that arrogance is the tragic flaw that has taken many to their own destruction. Nothing will please me more than to prove that he didn't know what he was talking about when he said my writing is "incohesive." I invite you to do the same with your negative, nonsupportive critics. You'll have them. So will I. That doesn't mean they know better than you and I do. It doesn't mean they are smarter or wiser than we are. They are human and subject to error. And we never know what is going on inside others. We can only know what they allow us to know. Maybe, just maybe, they are envious of our skills and are employing Machiavellian skills to prevent someone else succeeding where they know they cannot.

Happy writing! Get to it! Why are you sitting there procrastinating?

Just out of curiosity, how "incohesive" do I sound to you?


Anonymous said...

You make perfect sense to me, but I'm a redneck. It might actually prove he's right! LOL
I applaud your attitude. Just to add a little boost to you. My mother graduated from college at 59. I'm a high school drop out and college graduate (without a GED).
I think we all determine our own fate. It sounds like you're on the road to success. Good luck.
Happy New Year,
J. Aday Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer

MysteryKnitter said...

I am glad you got B+. That means you passed.

MysteryKnitter said...

I am glad you got B+. That means you passed.