Not too long ago my daughter related a dream that she had. It was about a truck who wouldn’t clean up after himself and was in a big mess. A bulldozer came by but wouldn’t help him. A dump truck came by but wouldn’t help him. A crane swung by, but wouldn’t help clean the mess either. Finally a hook-and-ladder truck came by and helped him clean up the big mess.
There were several things about this dream that I liked.
First, it meant that she had indeed heard our continual admonitions to clean up her toys when she is finished playing. It was obvious that this was a “problem” that her brain was grappling with: the command to clean and her lack of desire to do it. Second, she had just told me a really nice story with a plot arc—conflict that was resolved, and the story had characters with personalities. The writer in me was delighted.
I was talking with some other moms with whom I work and told them about my daughter’s dream. One of them was impressed with the number of vehicles my daughter had named. One of them suggested that I take my daughter’s dream and turn it into a children’s story. So I did. The story practically wrote itself, and after a couple of editing rounds, I was happy with what her story had become. I even sent it to another editor for a formal critique.
So, one evening I invited my daughter to sit next to me at my computer and I read her the story that I had written. She listened intently.
I confess that I was secretly hoping for a completely awed response from her: “Wow, Mom that’s so cool. You took my dream and made it a story.”
But what she said was, “No that’s wrong… the crane wasn’t…”
Now I have taken enough writing training and trained enough writers to know that critics are everywhere. Furthermore I am a professional writer; I often turn over my written creations to fellow editors to be hacked to shreds in order to improve my work. The red ink that comes back or the Adobe shared review file with over 1,000 comments from reviewers stings a little, but it’s all in a day’s work. In the end my work is better for it.
But when my daughter didn’t look up at me, awed by my writing prowess, her chocolate brown eyes sparkling with delight at how the tips of word-smith fingers had transformed her dream like I had envisioned, I was crushed. It cut more than even the harshest criticism delivered after a graduate seminar or during the writing of my dissertation.
About that time my husband came home from work. My daughter’s ears perked up at the sound of the garage door opening, and by the time the knob to the back door jiggled, she was running down the hall crying “Daddy, it’s Daddy!” She didn’t even bother to finish her thought about the story.
A critic so unimpressed, that she doesn’t even finish her critique of my work. Sigh.
Everybody’s a critic and often critics don’t have very long attention spans. Such is the life of a writer.
© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.