Writing is easy, families are hard

The Loft

As a writer, if you can survive your family, editors are a cinch.           

When I began writing for publication many years ago, I assumed my loving relatives and friends would be honored to be asked for suggestions on initial drafts—to be part of the artistic process. Not so!

My journey to “author” status would have been shorter had I signed up for creative writing courses earlier in the preceding century.

I desperately needed a reader-editor. Even my ex-husband, Ray, was an avid nonreader of my work. Given that he was a former English teacher turned lawyer, one would imagine him an excellent candidate for “house critic.” I’d approach him with a manuscript hot off the Remington (“typewriter” for younger readers), the inspired fire within still ablaze, breathlessly anxious for “reader reaction.”

Ray would say, “I’m too tired tonight. Leave it next to my chair and I’ll read it first thing in the morning when I’m fresh.”

In the morning, it was, “You don’t expect me to read it on an empty stomach, do you?” After breakfast, he was but a streak, out the door, safely on his way to the office.

After months of following Ray around trying to get constructive criticism, corrections, whatever—lying flat in the driveway reading my work to him as he busied himself fixing the underside of the car or shouting it at the top of my lungs as he mixed concrete to lay in the basement—I approached our 15-year-old son, Larry, for help. It was a bit humiliating to have a kid one-third my age say, “Now, Mother . . . when you write an article, you first tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em . . . then ya tell ’em . . . and then ya tell ’em what you told ’em.”

I countered weakly, “Well, I think it’s better to start off with something catchy to get their attention . . .”

He said, “Yeah, your technique is more tellin’ ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em . . . then tellin’ ’em something else!”

I would have fired him except I’d have been forced to raid the bus stop across the street for somebody to give me “reader reaction.”

The really high point in my family’s recognition of my writing prowess was in a little conversation with my mother-in-law, the kindest and most loving person imaginable. She had asked me to get out all the stuff I had had published and as I began to point out my articles, she said, “Oh, I don’t want to read them . . . I just want to show them to my friends.”           

Then the conversation began to go downhill. She asked what my sisters were doing, if they had shown any special talents. I replied that one taught speech to deaf children and she enthused, “Now that’s what I like to hear—that’s something really worthwhile.”

I was so pleased, I almost hit her. 

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