Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December Theme: Writing Gifts (Naomi Kinsman)

For Christmas a few years ago, my best friend gave me a clock with an extra hour. She said, "I knew the very best thing I could give you was more time."

It was sort of a joke. But also, not really a joke at all. I do need more time. Lots of it.

The gifts that mean the most to me are the ones I could never buy for myself. So, it isn't very surprising that the writing gift that has meant the most to me, over time, is honesty.

And wow, honesty hurts. Over and over in this past year, I have been given the gift of honesty, from fellow writers, from editors, from teachers, from my agent. That first glance at critique notes, or the first teeny-tiny suggestion that likely means you will have to rewrite your entire book, can't help but sting. My heart screams "Why didn't I see that?" and "But can't you see that I meant to..." and "I spent hours and hours and hours on it." And if you fight through all your objections, you end up in this scary place, like stepping into a huge cavern in a cave, where your voice only echoes weakly and your ideas only light up the smallest bit of the darkness. And in that place, you have to make a decision. Will you move on? Will you stick with the story, even if it means picking your way through the dark?

I've been in the opposite shoes a lot recently, too, giving feedback to others on their work. Surprisingly, the risk of honesty is even harder to give than to recieve. Why tell someone the difficult truth when you could easily gloss over all that and tell them, "It's good enough?"

This is why honesty is such a gift, and why I am so grateful for those people in my life who give it to me. When someone takes the risk of telling me the truth, not glossing over the difficult parts, challenging me to push myself, they do so because they believe in me, and in my story. They don't think I ought to write a "good enough" story. They want me to write a story that reaches into my own heart, and into my readers' hearts. And their belief is what lights my way through the revision, until in the end, I've written a book that is far beyond what I knew I could write.

I hope I can always be brave enough to listen to the truth when people are generous enough to give it to me. And I also hope I will always be brave enough to tell the truth myself.

3 comments:

  1. I love that your friend gave you an hour...By far, the best gift you can give anybody is time...

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  2. This reminder comes at the perfect time for me, as I'm about to be on the receiving end of a little revision honesty and want very much to be graceful and grateful. Thanks so much for your honesty in sharing this!

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