Inspiration from a negative review

I wrote and published Where Memories Meet with the goals to educate and commiserate. I wanted to give readers who had little to no experience with Alzheimer’s a clear understanding of what was involved, as least to the extend that my family experienced it, and I wanted to reach out to those who were currently, or had been, dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s and let them know they were not alone. I understood.

A few weeks ago I received my first negative critique of Where Memories Meet. (The good reviews I rush to post, the negative ones, not so much.) As a writer it can be demoralizing and utterly discouraging when you receive negative feedback. It took me about a week to lick my wounds and resurface from the cave I had crawled into.

I requested feedback from a Writer’s Digest contest I had entered the book in, and the critique came as an email with the subject line, “You asked for it.” Which I’m sure was their standard response, but which particularly drove the point, and it was a sharp one,  home.

The reader clearly didn’t like the book, and after reading the comments, I suspected he or she hadn’t read very far into it. The critique quoted a particularly benign sentence from page 13 and I seriously question whether the reviewer read any further than that.

The reviewer informed me that when one was writing about life and death matters, it was important to bring the character to life. I agree. In fact that was one of my most important goals and guiding principles as I wrote Where Memories Meet. I aimed to transform my father for the reader. And I took the risk of moving my story line backwards in steps through the seasons to do so, even though some readers found that difficult. I wanted the reader to see that the silent, largely non-responsive human life was a bright, multi-faceted, productive, and devoted father and husband before the disease took him away piece-by-piece. Or maybe I should say, “inch-by-inch.” Had the reviewer finished the book, I believe he or she would have seen that.

He or she also chose to compare my nonfiction memoir and oral narrative to the fictional Still Alice. I read Still Alice. I liked Still Alice. I was not writing Still Alice. I was not writing fiction. I read a lot of nonfiction, and today authors are doing an increasingly better job at making nonfiction compelling reading. I acknowledge that I might have been better at doing this.

What hurt the most was the reviewer’s comment that I told the story “inch-by-inch.” In my cave, licking my wounds, I chewed on that one for a good long while.

When I resurfaced, I responded to the Writer’s Digest contest. I was particularly disappointed because I had always viewed WD as a help and encouragement to writers, in particular to self-published writers. I didn’t find anything about the feedback I received to be helpful—only mean-spirited, discouraging, and demoralizing. I told them the review made me feel like I should apologize for asking the reviewer to read my book. I said that I made a mistake in entering it in the contest, and that was a mistake I would not be making again.

The positive outcome from this painful episode is that the reviewer unwittingly nailed it on the head, gave me a new insight into my family’s experience, and inspired me to write  the post at my author website, Inch by Inch, about helping someone with Alzheimer’s.

 

 

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Inspiration

Often I use my writing to inspire my photography. I’ll have a topic I want to write about and I’ll go find a picture. My editing post is a good example. I knew what I wanted to write about and I went in search of a photo. Granted, the clock photo is a bit of a stretch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sometimes I use my photography to inspire my writing. And as I’m participating in the 365 Project where you take a photo everyday, I should be able to generate a lot of inspiration. Yesterday’s brilliant puzzling post is a good example. As is today’s post.

Now, you might expect I’m going to write about home and hearth, warmth, passion, or any other number of things a burning flame brings to mind, but no.

The fire inspired me to write about that illusive quality we call inspiration. Writing from my photographs can be just one more tool in my limited toolbox.

How do you find inspiration? Care to share your secrets?

 

Keep going

It’s no secret to those few bloggers and friends who continue to follow my posts, that my energy for this is waning. I would just like to say thank you for sticking with me. I will be back to reading your posts and writing my own, hopefully soon. Whoever thought when I was in the throes of trying to keep up with all your posts that I would ever say, I miss reading what you’re writing. But I do.

I’ve been reading a small Advent book I purchase many years ago called Let it Be: Advent and Christmas Meditations for Women, edited by Therese Johnson Borchard. It clearly has a religious bent, but not overly so. Many of the readings have secular value. I would like to share a small excerpt from today’s reading that I found particularly appropriate.

Be Patient, Stand Firm

“Commitment and enthusiasm are two concepts that are, unfortunately, often confused. Commitment is that quality of life that depends more on the ability to wait for something to come to fulfillment—through good days and bad—than it does on being able to sustain an emotional extreme for it over a long period of time. Enthusiasm is excitement fed by satisfaction. The tangle of the two ideas, however, is exactly what leads so many people to fall off in the middle of a project.

“When the work ceases to feel good, when praying for peace gets nowhere, when the marriage counseling fails to reinvigorate the marriage, when the projects and the plans and the hopes worse than fail, they fizzle, that’s when the commitment really starts. . .

“When we feel most discouraged, most fatigued, most alone is precisely the time we must not quit.”

—Joan Chittister, Songs of Joy

If you are struggling with a project, I hope you will keep going.

Christine

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