Some thoughts on writing and on criticism

I have always loved to write. I love to write stories, and to create people. My childhood was spent making up characters and giving them stories, families, lives. I would like to think that I became fairly good at it. I suppose you would, with that much practice.

But when I was 15, I failed an English creative writing assignment. The comment from the teacher who marked it (not my own teacher), was “Boring!” She didn’t even sign her name, like they were required to do. I only found out who it was because my teacher, angry and hurt on my behalf, compared the handwriting to that on several other marking sheets.

Boring, she said.

I tried to rationalise why she may have said that. Did I edit too much out, trying to keep it under the word limit? I was sick that day, after all. Maybe I wasn’t thinking straight. Did the subject matter, abortion, offend her? Did the story resolve itself too quickly? Did she not understand that “snap shot” technique? Maybe I’d submitted it under the wrong sub-heading, labelling it a Challenge (Fiction) rather than a Journey (Fiction). But if it had been any of these things, surely she would have noted them.

“Boring,” was all she said.

It is hard to go on doing what you love when someone says it is boring when you do it. I was proud of that piece of writing, and now I am ashamed to be proud of it. I alternate between wanting to become a famous author so that I can mention her, by name, in an interview, and never wanting to share my writing again for fear of hearing or reading that same word. For the most part though, I sit comfortably in the middle, never really thinking about it. I had already had writing published before failing that assignment, so it does feel a little bit crazy that I would stop pursuing it because of a throwaway comment, especially now that it’s 10 years ago. But I put my whole self into my writing. I choose to become vulnerable, and when I share what I have written, I am sharing myself. “Boring” cut me as deeply as it would have if it had been said as I stood naked before her and told her the stories of my scars.

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2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on writing and on criticism

  1. I once handed in the same story 3x to 3 different teachers (HS, and two different creative writing courses in college) and I got and A, C and an F. It really depends on who is reading it, huh? I enjoyed the experiment anyway :).

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