February's Inspirational Quote

"One Hour at a Time"
~ Laurie Wallmark.

Dear Laurie,
You might not recall saying this and perhaps I won't remember the specifics but you are our inspiration for the rest of February and maybe even March.

You and I were on the phone and talking about how hard it is to write a novel and as usual I was whining and feeling sorry for my long-a$$ journey. And you told me about how you were working and how busy you were so you wrote your novel one hour at a time. Astounded I said, "You wrote your novel one hour at a time?" And you said, "Yup." And I thought, "Wow... ... ..."

Often times we think we need - or I think I need - huge chunks of time set aside so I can write. Do you do that too? What if we gave ourselves one hour of each day? If it turns into two, well then fine, but if not, at least you still had your One Hour at a Time. So that is the motto of the month, thanks to ours truly, Laurie Wallmark.

We love you, Laurie!

Friday, February 15, 2008

An emotional Critique

I have known that what I write springs from my own experiences in life and can release great emotion like a wave cleansing the beach of all debris. For me, writing is cathartic and illustrating is joy. I have a long background and an analytical eye in critiquing art work. From juried art shows to critiquing students and other professionals in portfolio review situations. Yet critiquing other writers has been a very different and amazing experience for me! There are moments when a situation someone is writing about can really hit home and affect me on a very emotional level. With no small amount of surprise I realize that we all tap into our emotional lives when we write.
Recently I had to write a critique for a fellow workshop attendee whose character experienced 9/11 not far from the towers. I started reading the story with aplomb but slowly found myself tied up in knots and filled with anxiety. I began to relive my own experience of 9/11 which involved my husband who was two blocks away when the towers fell. This story made me ‘walk through’ the terror all over again. I had strong emotional reactions to some inconsistencies in the time line and wondered if I should bow out of the up coming critique session for this person. I feared breaking down and blubbering through it all. I worried that my emotions would get in the way of a good ‘analytical critique’.
At last I decided to ask some fellow facilitators for advice. Sheri & Leeza are going to the workshop as well. I was initially scheduled to be in their critique group but I transferred out to be among fresh readers for a manuscript they had already looked over. My initial idea was to just hand over my notes to this workshop writer and not give my thoughts verbally. Surprisingly both Leeza and Sheri told me to try to go ahead with it. Their position was that my experience and emotion might be just what this writer needs to hear. I was still on the fence. Who wants to cry in front of a group of people they’ve never met before? I decided to show the manuscript to my husband. He was a great help in clarifying the timeline information. We hadn’t talked about 9/11 in a long while, so we spent the evening comparing our memories. After this I realized I could also pass on to this writer some experiences my husband had with people on that fateful day. It could possibly be used as fodder for this writer’s story. I began to agree with Sheri and Leeza that maybe my view point would be important for this person to hear and it was o.k. if I cried.
Now I see that a good critique is not always analytical but emotional too. Rising up like a breaking wave it can leave behind that perfect shell for the one who is looking


Sheri said...

That was really beautiful, Cathy. I am so glad you shared that here. This is a good forum for us all to discuss this issue. It reminds me that sometimes a particular person is a gift for our life and sometimes we are a gift for them. In your case, I think you both were the recipients of the gift here; as it was a step towards your own healing and I am sure your insight will be a wonderful asset to her script.

LEEZY said...

Ditto to the ever-elquent Sheri.

Cathy, I'm so glad you are doing this. We'll be there to rush over and give you a hug, don't you worry. We got yer back!

Jeanne said...

Cathy - I think that the more emotional a response we have, the more necessary it is to share with another. Writing can be so incredibly moving, and when another writer has that effect on us, both the writer and the person critiquing stand to grow from the experience shared. Think of what you have to offer the person who is telling this story, and how much you can enrich her tale.

Cathleen Daniels said...

Thanks everyone! You are an infinite source of support and I am grateful I didn't go with my original decision.