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MFA in Writing at Vermont College

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I'm Afraid

My third grade nephew recently told me that his biggest fear was that the world would run out of meat!

I guess that would be a pretty good fear.  But I can think of scarier things than that.  And I’m not talking about being afraid of the dark or of heights or of spiders.  I’m talking real fear here.  I’m talking things that scare the daylights out of me.

Like having to put my head in the mouth of a tiger to brush his teeth.  That would most certainly cause me to pass out in fear.  And before you laugh I am sure this is on the list of job responsibilities for some poor zookeeper out there. 

I am still scared to death of Graveyard Granny, the old woman who would chase any kid who climbed the cemetery fence to retrieve a home run ball at Our Lady of Assumption Grade School.  The sight of that old pale woman wagging a hoe and chasing some unlucky kid around the tombstones still makes me shudder.  I am convinced Graveyard Granny is still patrolling the fence line and would make my blood curdle if I saw her today.

Speaking of curdling, how about the two month old Chinese in the back of my refrigerator?  At this point I won’t to touch anything within two objects of that scary white container. I’ll need a haz mat suit to get that thing to the garbage.  It is truly scary.

Then there was my drive on the eleventh hole at Silver Spring last week.  That slice was pretty wicked.  I didn’t know it was possible to make a ball zig-zag in a Z shape off the tee.  It was scary enough to make grown men on distant holes cry.

But are you ready for my biggest fear of all?  I’m talking boot-trembling, knee knocking, palm sweating scary here.  It is not for the weak of heart.  You may want to take a deep breath before moving to the next paragraph.

My biggest fear is… sending my story off to be critiqued!

Critique groups are like monsters.  They have long scalpel hands that can tear up a story in one swift motion.  They can squeeze every last drip of blood from your manuscript and then spit out the bones like chicken wings.  They attack from every angle with the swiftness of a herd of hyenas.  They take no mercy and leave you abandoned on the side of the road gasping for air.

I would rather polish clean the teeth of a hungry tiger than send my story to be critiqued.  I would rather scarf down two-month old pad thai than read a critique of my story.  I would run up and give Graveyard Granny a big smooch on the lips rather than have my story critiqued. I would gladly become a vegetarian if it meant no more critiques.

Okay, perhaps I am going a little too far here.  I mean, I actually like my critique partners, advisors and classmates.  They all give excellent advice and their critiques are usually spot on.  So why is it so hard for me to hear what they have to say? 

In some strange way I feel having my story critiqued is kind of like sending my loved ones off to the slaughterhouse.  I have put my whole heart and soul into these characters and story lines and I just don’t want to see them all come crumbling down.  Getting critiqued is kind of like cough syrup… I know it will help cure my ails but it still tastes terrible going down. 

The easy solution is obviously to become a better writer.  Hopefully as I grow as a writer the critiques become less intense.  Although I have a feeling this is not so.  But as I continue on my path it is inevitable that I will have to put my hard work out there to be torn down.  I guess it is all part of the learning process. But why does that process have to be so painful?

Here is to sending out my next packet.  I hope I survive!

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