Finding the validation you need about something can be difficult. It’s tough to imagine that anyone could ever tell you exactly what it is you need to hear at a given moment without having to tell them to say it. Life would move much smoother if that were the case. But life doesn’t like smooth.
This past Wednesday, it was my turn to post a story on my Fiction 2 online Gotham class’ page to be workshopped. I chose a story that I’ve been working on for months now that has been through about 6 or 7 different rewrites. It’s an ambitious 15-page piece: it’s told in the 2nd person POV, it changes from past to present tense, it takes place over 10 years, and it deals with sex, addiction, infidelity, suicide and depression. It’s the story that makes me cringe the most when I feel brave enough to reread my work. It’s also one of the stories that I’m using as a part of my manuscript for grad school applications and I’ve felt uneasy about it ever since the first draft.
I usually know when I have something.
No matter how bad the first few drafts are, I’m usually able to tell when something is working. When there’s a spark in its core. Sometimes, it just takes a lot of digging to get it out and let it breathe. And that isn’t really the hard part for me—it’s getting pretty things to surround it with. I’m good at finding pretty things but not so good at making anything out them.
After posting it online for my class and instructor to read, I was sure that I was going to get it torn apart. No one likes the 2nd person. It can be accusatory, demanding, and overall repelling. You did this. You said this. You broke this. You hurt her. It’s difficult enough to enjoy when it’s done well and I’m not confident about any of my writing being done well, even in a more conventional 1st or 3rd person POV.
So it caught me off-balance when a classmate emailed me the morning after I posted my story to tell me how much she loved it.
“You’re reaching Philip Roth status with your romantic angst here.”
“It’s there. You have it.”
You know, good stuff.
I have a difficult time accepting praise because I rarely feel deserving of it, especially when it comes to my writing, but this email couldn’t have come at a better time.
MFA programs are competitive. A lot of programs get upwards of 600-800 applicants and only accept 10-20 at the most. Some that I’ve applied to only take 5 or 6. Basically the odds aren’t great. At all. And I’ve been needing some validation on my work.
I’ve needed to feel like maybe there’s a shot for me.
And even though my classmate said some lovely things, she still isn’t in charge of grad school admissions at the programs I’ve applied to. She’s still not a staff member at the literary mags I’ve submitted to.
But, it’s still nice to receive some praise. I don’t necessarily feel like I have anymore of a shot now to be the 1 of the few accepted just because of her email, but I feel a little better. Like maybe I was right about the spark.
Maybe I made something good out of the pretty things this time.
And for right now, that’s enough.