Feedback and Revisions

My feedback group meets the first Wednesday of every month and this past week was the first time I was offering a sampling of FLASH up to the red pens. It wasn’t my first time contributing, just the first time for this book, but I realized mid-meeting that no matter which piece of writing I’ve submitted, I go through the same five-step emotional process each time.

Step 1

This is the same sweaty-fingers, please-like-me, is-this-sweater-okay?, I-knew-I-shouldn’t-have-worn-pink, why-did-I-listen-to-my-mom?, you-like-my-sweater?, I-like-yours-too feeling that I remember from the first days of middle school. The differences being I no longer have braces and I no longer have to worry about what I’m wearing. For all my group knows, I could be e-mailing my submissions while wearing pajamas, which I frequently do. The feeling is the same, however, it’s the result of making yourself vulnerable and inviting a layer of honesty that just isn’t found in day to day life.

Step 2

I’m stupid sometimes, and this is one of those times. Each time I listen to feedback on my pieces, I spend the first two minutes being stubborn and defensive.

I don’t actually show that I’m being stubborn or defensive, I smile prettily and nod and simper, “Oh, absolutely. That’s a great suggestion.” But inside I’m seething – doesn’t he know how hard I worked on that scene? Take out the –ly words? Well, if we don’t know that Cole slightly nodded, how are we to feel his hesitation? If Tessa’s not walking unsteadily, how will we know she’s exhausted from her flash? Humph! My inner petulant child stamps her foot.

Luckily, this stage quickly comes and goes, and then I realize I’m being an idiot and start listening and absorbing helpful feedback.

Step 3

When the protective, defensive layer comes down, I tend to accept all feedback /criticism at once. And try to figure it all out at once. And then my brain goes into hyperdrive. This is when I sink into an it-can’t-be-done, I’m-just-going-to-scrap-this-piece-and-start-again funk.

Fortunately, I was born without the ability to be pessimistic for more than ten minutes, and after those ten minutes are up, I get proactive again.


Step 4 – Puzzling

Sometimes I get over step three rather quickly, but usually progress here requires me to do something. Late night runs are great times to run scenarios in my head. Sitting on my porch with my laptop during summer rainstorms works as well. Calling someone who’s read the book and is willing to listen to me sound out multiple possibilities works great. And sometimes just a night of sleep brings clarity.

But when it comes – this is the most exciting time of all. Seeing the possibilities for the piece, and knowing how much better it can become because of the feedback I’ve gotten? It’s an awesome feeling.

Step 5 – Production

Once things start clicking in step four, watch out. Neither food, nor sleep, nor conversation, nor life will interfere with my re-writing and polishing. (I do, however, make an exceptions for the dixie-cup sized bladders of the puggles – I’d rather to stop to take them out than stop for clean up).

When I get on a role and have a plan in mind, I work with a singular focus until I’m done. Then I run around like sleep and social stimuli deprived maniac and insist that everyone coo over every new comma and every deletion of an –ly word.

– Overwhelmedness – Stubborn Protectiveness – Submission.

Polling and Puppy Puke

Today did not start off well. I was supposed to be able to ‘sleep in’ until 6:30 since today’s an in-service, not a regular school day.

Instead at 5:30 I woke up to ‘huruph blurph bleah’ and a warm lumpy wet splatter of doggie vomit. To make the situation even better, Bruschi decided to make amends for throwing up on me by covering my shocked and sleepy face with kisses. Gross!

But the day’s gotten much, much better since then. My school is a polling place (hence the no-kids today) and when I pulled in to the driveway today, it looked like a kindergartener had done the parking. There were cars everywhere, in every direction, on the grass, on the sidewalk, and two thick around the bus circle.

I haven’t seen lines like the ones snaking across the playground and twining back and forth in the gymnasium since my last trip to Disney World. That’s pretty amazing!

And all day long people have been sharing their voting stories:

My friend Val reported a 20-year-old reemerging from his booth in panic. He was saying, “I know this was already explained to me, but can someone tell me again? I just don’t want to screw up.” And everyone else in line smiled and stood a little taller.

Or my co-worker, Jesse, who teaches second grade just passed my door on his way down to ‘Kids Vote.’ When I commented that he was a little too old to be participating in the kids’ voting program, he told me how one of his students e-mailed him asking for help. This 8-year-old had to leave last night to attend his uncle’s funeral, but wanted to make sure his vote would count, so he asked his teacher to cast his kids’ ballot for him. It’s children like this that make me feel so confident that our future’s in good hands.

I waited to vote until after work today – I’m heading out in just a minute. This way I could look forward to it all day long. It’s days like today that I’m floating with American pride (and so grateful for hot, post-puppy-puke showers!).

Anyone else have a voting story?


Oh my Lawn Chair

Matt and I were at Ikea yesterday to try and get ideas about how to organize our new closet. This has now devolved into diagrams on graph paper with color-coded scaled-down squares that represent the different sized units. I still have no clue how it’s going to work, despite all of Matt’s patience and diagrams. I’ll excitedly suggest a way that I think will work great and Matt will calmly respond, “Tiffany, if we set up the wardrobes like that, you won’t be able to open the closet door to get to your clothing.” Or “Yes, the wardrobes would fit facing each other like that, but will we fit between the wardrobes to get our clothing out?”

But I digress, the thing I wanted to write about was the little boy who was skipping through the store ahead of us, singing cheerily to himself and ignoring the taunts and pokes of his bored older brother.

“Oh my lawn chair, Oh my lawn chair,” he was crooning to the tune of “Clementine.” I kept trying to hear the next line of the song, but Ikea has so many twists and turns that I couldn’t get close enough and his mother started to give me the wary eyeball.

Since I didn’t feel like explaining I wasn’t a creepy child stalker, I just wanted to hear what made-up lyrics he was singing, I let some distance grow and actually gave Matt and the closets some long-overdue attention. But after answering a few of my closet questions, he was practically begging me to find a new child to stalk.

“I’m not stalking! I’m writing,” I explained indignantly.

“Okay,” he responded in a clearly placating, go-away-and-leave-me-to-my-tape-measuring voice.

That was a mistake! Now he was going to get a full explanation and I was going to make him take me seriously, or at least be annoying enough that he would listen. “No really! I’m pre-writing. I’m gathering stolen conversation. Maybe that little boy’s song will make it into a story someday, either way it’s adorable and I’m intrigued. Aren’t you?”

“Not really. I just want to look at these wardrobes and get home. If you want to go steal conversations, that’s fine. You can tell me all about it in the car. Okay?”

“Fine,” I grumbled. “But since I didn’t get to hear the rest of ‘Oh my lawn chair,’ you’d better be ready to help me think up some good lyrics.”

Here they are:

Oh my lawn chair
Oh my lawn chair
Oh my chair that’s on the grass
You are cozy, and so shady, I want lemonade in my glass.

It’s clearly a work in progress. And now I’ll always have to wonder what the ‘real’ fake lyrics were. sigh

So, if you ever see me following you a little too closely in a store, or leaning in a suspicious manner toward your table at a restaurant, try not to be alarmed. I’m not stalking, or eavesdropping, I’m simply stealing your conversation. And if you know the rest of the words to “Oh My Lawn Chair,” feel free to take that opportunity to sing them for me.