I write continuously but have never let anyone read my work. Six months ago, I started my first novel and finished a draft of the first chapter in one weekend. I couldn’t wait to write more. The following weekend a very good friend stopped by and asked to read my draft. I decided that if I really wanted to be published someday I should get over my fear, so I gave him the chapter. He had some negative things to say but was kind about it. I have been unable to finish a chapter since. I probably sound deranged—a writer who won’t let you read his words. How can I get past this fear?
Dennis Schmitz, former Sacramento poet laureate, once said, “The only way to get through writer’s block is to write.” In the future, if you wish to invite public comment on a creative project, a new outfit, your sexual performance, a work assignment, your weight or the quality of friendship that you offer, provide your respondent with a structure. Years ago I attended a weekend poetry workshop given by Pulitzer Prize-winner Galway Kinnell. When the class returned, mid-morning, with newly written poems in hand, he instructed us thusly, “If you were visiting the newborn infant of a friend,” he said, “you wouldn’t say, ‘Not bad, but the ears are too large and the mouth is rather awkward.’ You would simply be delighted at the birth. These poems we have just written are newborn. Please comment on them by saying what you liked. That should provide adequate instruction for the poet.” After listening to positive comments it was easy to see that, in the areas not mentioned, the poems needed a nip and tuck.
When I have led writing workshops I ask my students to structure peer critiques by stating three things that they liked about that student’s writing and three things they wish for. This format removes the sting while gently pointing the writer toward fresh ways to view their work. You can, of course, apply this structure to a variety of interpersonal situations to save yourself from feeling betrayed when you invite a critique and a friend obligates by giving you all they’ve got. Otherwise, you’ll need the internal balance of a Bodhisattva to manage the meanness that some people can fling your way amidst the genuinely good advice from others.
My boyfriend and I work for the same company. I’m worried because he has been more helpful than normal with a new employee, a woman who is 20 years younger than him (and five years younger than me). I have told him that she is in a relationship. Her boyfriend also works for the same company and keeps an eye on her. Is my boyfriend flirting? If so, how can I improve my relationship with him?
Are you suspicious because your own relationship with him began similarly? Or are you measuring yourself against her and pretending that you come up short? Your beau may simply be a gregarious guy, but if there is sexual tension and innuendo in his relationship with this gal, they’re definitely flirting. Improving your relationship with him is no guarantee that his attentions will return to you. Flirting generally springs from an ego in constant need of reassurance or from an ego that is desperate for connection but is stuck operating at a superficial level. These are problems that he needs to process with a counselor. But the bottom line is, if you don’t trust him, he may not be the guy for you.