October Scare (Or Recognizing the Blessing in Disguise)

Thursday, October 18, 2018
Last week, I had my handyman come by to give an estimate for painting the interior of my garage. He picked at crumbling ceiling stuff and pointed out a hole in the sheetrock. But still, when he delivered the dollar amount, it was downright scary! No way would I spend that kind of money on my garage. But I had other projects and so I figured while he was here, I’d take him down to the basement.

We trudged down the stairs and as I turned the corner, I froze. Water seeped into a sizable section of carpet! Late that evening, as I was slogging through the mess, I realized that my handyman’s high estimate had been what you call the old blessing in disguise. If I hadn’t been so annoyed with his bill, I wouldn’t have gone down to the basement till who knows when. I could’ve ended up with a completely flooded basement or worse.

And that brings me to writing and how often something that appears to be a bad turn can actually be a turn for the better.

A writer friend of mind is working on a new project and she sent me her first pages a few weeks ago. I love her concept and I love her protagonist! But in critiquing her beginning, I was super picky and I was a wee bit scared. Had I been too critical?

I heard back from her just the other day, and she had been hard at work. She needed to address a few things I’d mentioned now rather than later, and in her words, “in a weird way, you actually saved me time.” So my scary super pickiness ended up being just what she needed, even if it meant added work—the old blessing in disguise.

And I’ve had countless rejections on writing projects that turned out to be blessings:

…the essay about a family member that I thought was delightful that was nearly published only to be cut at the last minute. When I read it months later, I realized that it was much too personal to be out in the world and I thanked the writing gods that it had been rejected.

…the first ten pages of a manuscript that I was sure were ready to be sent out to agents and yet, I never received a request for the full. When I decided at last to do yet another complete read-through, I found a gaping plot hole (or two). Sometimes, when we’re deep into a manuscript, we don’t see obvious flaws until we have some distance. Boy, was I glad that full manuscript hadn’t gone out!

Of course, not every bad thing that happens can be a blessing. Sometimes, a flooded basement is just a horror. But sometimes, given a moment or two to think whilst slogging through a mess, be it basement or writing-related, we can see the blessing in disguise.

And then we can wipe our brow with a “Whew!” and get back to work.

When not painting garage walls or mopping up from a clogged pipe in the basement, Cathy C. Hall writes stories for children. She has half a dozen published books, all of which are blessings!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Hey Batwoman--

I agree. I could have trudged along with my WIP, thinking it was perfect, and then sent it off, figuring it would get snapped up... until I asked Margo to look at it.

Thanks goodness I took that risk. Otherwise, I would have been sending out a hot mess that needed lots and lots of work.

Yes, the writing gods work in mysterious ways. (I hope you get your basement straightened out soon.)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Yep, Sioux, it's always scary to get a manuscript critiqued because it's always something...that leads to something else...that leads to something else. But Margo's great so you're blessed to have that kind of terrific feedback!

And the basement's dry now. It was a clogged pipe, and all things considered, MUCH easier to fix than that garage! :-)

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Sorry about your basement. That sucks! I'm not surprised that you gave the experience a positive spin, though, because that's what you do and is one of the reasons you're so appreciated by so many. And you're right about that critique, too. I'll own up to it being mine so I can say, one, that you were not too critical (you're too kind for that), you were insightful and honest (two important components in the process), and two, everything you pointed out became crystal clear to me the moment I read it in your notes. I nodded through all your comments. And you did save me time. Better to have the blinders removed early in the project so the stinky stuff isn't repeated. So thanks again! :)

Tina Cho said...

I was thinking something along the same lines yesterday--that to reach a really great manuscript, it must first go through the trenches, the ugly, and polish off all the roughness before it becomes a diamond :)

Angela Mackintosh said...

Holy Batgirl! :)

I recently took a writing class with Naomi Kimbell that totally changed my writing style for life, and forced me to focus on the lyricism of my words. During that class, she gave us the option of revising one of our old essays, so I pulled up all my "finished" essays that I never submitted, and I realized I was glad I never submitted them! I could do so much better by tweaking some of the sentences for sound and language. It was a blessing in disguise, and something I secretly knew deep down inside or else I would've submitted them. Like you said, we don't see obvious flaws until we've had some distance.

I'm glad your basement is dry again! :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Lisa, you are one of those people who asks for honesty and truly means it. (And gives it right back! Thank you!)

And Tina, yes, I love that image. I like to think that these lumps of coal manuscripts of mine are just waiting around for their chance to become a diamond. :-)

Angela, don't you love a class like that?! And don't you wonder how you could've missed something that NOW seems so simple??? :-) Good luck with 'em!

(And yes, I'm glad my basement is dry, too. And I sure hope the rest of my house didn't hear me or it'll be wanting some extra attention next!)

Linda O'Connell said...

I get it! All hyped up about my perfect story contract, and then a last minute rejection. I return to it a year later and THEN I understand why. Glad your basement is fixed. That is a fright in itself.

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