Is it easy for you to ask for help when you need it, or do you prefer to rely only on yourself? Why?
Work went into my first short story, a lot of work. The story was based on farmers. It was a labor of love. The story was rewritten several times. I knew nothing about writing except knowing what a good story sounds like.
There was a clear vision of the type of writer I wanted to be. I never took a course in writing nor did I ever pick up one of the trade journals. Writing your first story on you own and not as a class project is scary. It all comes from within, there is no prompt except for yourself.
This experience can be likened to the first time you go to a public swimming pool. There you are, that’s who you are. Everybody can now see what you really look like without your clothing.
I have this ugly scar on my abdomen. People stare at it. For the longest time I wore a t-shirt to cover it. When you write the first story the t-shirt comes off. Everyone gets to see the ugliness, the whimsy, and imperfections of your thinking.
As I got older I found that people wanted to know about the scar. I told them it was from an operation as and infant. This satisfied some, but others begged for more information. The lesson: people like to hear about scars.
“Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’“
Shakespeare’s Henry V
Scars are also criticisms. They cut deep. In the case of my scar it was from an operation, if it didn’t occur I would have died.
I ask a friend to read my story. His opinion was valued. He read, “It was springtime.” He looked up and said. “That is a weak word to start a story with.” Rather than moving closer to hear more of what he meant, I sunk in my chair.
He looked at me and said, “If you’re not ready for criticism, you’re not ready to be a writer.”
I straitened up and moved closer. “It’s weak or not. It is really up to you. It’s my opinion, but tell me what springtime has to do with the story before you tell me it’s spring time. Just a thought, but there is nothing in the pronouncement of ‘springtime!’ that makes me want to read further. That‘s one reader‘s opinion, but I think it needs to be worked on.”
Although that moment is still painful to relive I’m glad it occurred. Scars mean you’ve been battle tested. Death wounds never heal. My scars mean I got help and survived.
When I die the mortician will see that scar on my abdomen. He may wonder, but if there is someone to tell the story he will know I carried a scar my entire life and it is full of passion, meaning, intrigue, pathos, laughter, disappointment, tears, smiles, bad things, and good things. Scars are stories waiting to be told.
Scars are where blood once flowed and healed. They are reminders to be exploited not hidden. Allow scars to become your strength and not your weakness.
Rocks don’t bleed.