Some days I don't know what comes over me. Basically, a friend threw down the challenge for me to enter a writing contest. Convinced to do so, I became so happy to oblige that I managed to write two entries.
Since I don't have a writing group I belong to (because of time constraints), I decided to send out a draft of the essays to friends and family--I wanted to know which essay worked better, based on the contest guidelines.
Like most writers, I appreciate constructive criticism when a reader stays on topic. However, I wasn't interested in line edits, digs at a friend's own spouse, my "poor" selections of reading material or contests, my faulty memory or negative comments about my choice of friends and their challenges.
I think the responses shed many lights on the joys of writing: the subjectivity of one's readers and the inevitability of leaving one open to criticism, no matter the subject.
But when I run into someone who has read my blogs or one of my newspaper articles, I hear how wonderful the piece is...and then, why won't the newspaper do a better delivery job in their neighborhood. Interestingly, I never hear the negatives and just glowing accolades (which seem slightly unrealistic, but who am I to fight that battle?).
But, ask someone by e-mail and you learn a lot more about your friends and family than about your writing or the topic of your essay. It was certainly an eye-opening experience, probably one I'll hesitate before trying again, especially since voting is running neck-and-neck between the essays. It will be tough to decide which essay to submit. I'll have to rely on my own faulty subjectivity. Yikes.
So, next time a friend convinces me to enter a contest and I decide to send out the essay, I'll just leave my more vocal family members off the e-mail list. They can just read about it on my blog...and comment, nicely, in person.
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who wishes she could use her delete button a lot more than she does. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.