Writing Journal: Doubting My Work

I want to do something new on Thursdays. I want to share with you my thoughts on writing, mine in particular, challenges, updates on the book I’m working on, etc.

I finished writing my first project earlier this year. It’s a tiny book of personal essays. I’d printed a couple copies of the first full draft, but had been holding onto it for months because I didn’t know who to trust with the first read.

Last week, I gave a copy to one of the ladies in my book club—her name is Diane. Diane is a Black woman in her forties, mother of three girls. I first met Diane at church as a friend of my Aunt, and later we worked at the same school—she was a substitute before getting a full-time position. I would go to Diane’s classroom whenever I was stressed or frustrated with Administration (I worked in the office) because being in her presence was such a breath of fresh air. Her spirit, her words, the way she saw you, it was always so encouraging to be around her. She’s the type of person who speaks life into you. And that is why I trusted her with the first draft of my essays.

We had a family event over the weekend, and Diane was there. She’d read half of the essays in the day since I’d given them to her, and her amazement kind of freaked me out. I will never get used to people praising my work—be it my writing, or my efforts at my job, or any other accomplishment of mine. I always feel like I haven’t done enough, and that what I have done isn’t as good as I think it is. Of course I like my own writing, but I often don’t think other people will.

Diane’s praise of what she’d read so far made me really uncomfortable because I don’t receive praise well. She told me I need to do more with this first piece of work, she shut down my idea of combining it with the book of short stories I’m working on because it stands alone, and she told me her only criticism is that she wanted it to be longer because she wanted more of it to read.

And of course, my immediate thought is she’s just saying that because she likes me and sees herself in it and is biased. So I started thinking of actually giving it to someone who probably wouldn’t relate to any of the things in those essays—a fifty-something year old white man named Jeff. He’s the husband of a friend of my mother’s, and I’ve given him fiction of mine to read before, but nothing so personal as these essays.

I figure Jeff may have a more objective opinion on this particular work. However, that also makes me feel like he won’t understand what I’m trying to get across. But I guess that’s kind of the point isn’t it? To see if someone who has no personal history similar to what I’ve written can feel something when reading it.

My next challenge, then, is giving Jeff my essays to read while I wait for Diane to read the rest of them and then give them to her daughter (who’s around 19) to read as well. They will be the first three readers of the first project I’ve ever really finished. It’s exciting and nauseating at the same time. And I will update you as opinions come back.

Happy Reading!


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