My hubby is one of those supportive people. He listens to me talk about my writing and asks how it’s going, and I, in turn, find myself trying to create the perfect analogy to explain different aspects of the process. Sometimes those analogies work, and sometimes they don’t. But my favorite one yet has to do with my anxiety when I let others read and edit my work.
It goes something like this.
In this pretend scenario, I have to get feedback on this photograph. Why? Because that’s the way it works. So, I give the picture to someone I trust, along with a red pen, and I say, “Here. Take it. Circle anything that doesn’t look right. Make your notes. Let me know what’s wrong and what needs to be changed.” Essentially, I’m giving that person permission to red pen my nudity, to circle all the crap and to tell me what’s wrong with my body, the toilet, the photo, all of it.
Every comment – however well-meaning – will still be a commentary on something so personal that it’s basically a part of me. Every slash of the red pen, necessarily indicating crap, is still indicating my crap, which I like to think of as my business and nobody else’s. The editor will see every wrinkle and every roll. There’s no hiding them. It’s nauseating, anxiety-inducing and as nerve-wracking as can be.
And that is what it’s like to have someone read and edit a manuscript. They’re dissecting a part of you for review. No matter how kind your editor is about his edits, he’s still scrutinizing something that came out of your mind and heart, and he's telling you what’s wrong with it. He’s seeing all the wrinkles, rolls and crap, because he has to, and he’s telling you that have wrinkles, rolls and crap.
Don’t get me wrong. We all need to have that toilet picture reviewed… some of us more than others. It’s part of the process, and we can’t escape it. But the need doesn’t nullify the difficulty. Let’s face it, nobody likes to set themselves up for criticism. When we turn that manuscript over to the editor, we know there’s going to be crap. The story isn’t perfect (if it were, it wouldn’t need editing), and now somebody else is going to see the crap. All of it. Not a pretty picture.
And that is how I explain myself. Now that I see it in print, I feel I ought to add the disclaimer, "My parents raised me to be more high-class than this."
How do you explain the writing process to your non-writer friends and family members? I like to think that you, dear reader, are more classy than I am and probably don’t go on about photographs of you naked, on the toilet, doing your business. (I'm sure your parents raised you to be more high-class than that, too.) Please leave your analogies, metaphors, similes, allegories and parables in comments below.