Once during a writing class in college, I eagerly submitted my first fumbling screenplay attempt to my professor. She was a fantastic playwright and I wanted her to love it. I wanted her to love me.
She thought it was fine. Then she told me it wasn’t a screenplay. It was more a stage play. And that I needed to lose half the dialogue.
Gutted. Red lines all over my pages and all over my heart. The amazing writer next to me instead got the professor’s phone number and an offer to collaborate in the future. I wound up with an A in the class, but I didn’t care. I didn’t get it.
Once after the opening night of a show, I asked my director for notes. He said he usually didn’t offer much after rehearsal ended. Then proceeded to give me paragraph after paragraph of blistering critique. My accent was wrong. My walk was wrong. My interaction on stage at a crucial, emotional moment was wrong.
Again, gutted. I didn’t get it.
But I fixed the problems. I learned to write better dialogue. And less of it. I learned to keep a firm hold on the characters I worked on for weeks and show them on stage despite opening night nerves. I worked. I got better. I got it.
As hard as it can be, hearing criticisms about your work or your art is one thing. Hearing them about yourself can be earth-shattering.
I’m not taking about cruel words or insults hurled carelessly in anger. I can let a ‘bitch’ or an ‘asshole’ from some troll roll off my back. Those words don’t have the bite. But when someone you care about, a person whose opinion you seek and respect thoughtfully says “you’re doing this thing, and it’s becoming a real deal-breaking problem”, those words crash in and leave rubble around your heart.
New things are hard for me. I don’t pick up new concepts or skills quickly or easily. I need extra time and help and sometimes diagrams and laser pointers.
It sucks. But I’ve adapted. I’ve learned to take notes and leave clues for myself. I allow extra time and plan for melt downs and mistakes.
This is frustrating me and exponentially so for the bright people I am lucky to have by my side. They seem to attack a new challenge with zeal and joy. I, on the other hand, scream “I don’t get it! I’ll never get it!” and run away, tears streaming.
It’s bullshit. And last night, I was called on it.
I’m attempting to work on my new novella in Scrivener software. As we saw above, it’s a new thing, and I don’t get get it. At this early stage, also pretty sure, I’ll never get it. So, I fussed and pouted and danced my ass off at my own private pity party. The best kind, I feel. More snacks and booze for me.
It was ridiculous. Stupid. Worse, it was me being willfully ignorant. Refusing to look or listen. Not considering even an attempt at understanding. Not trying for a moment to get it.
Lame. Super, super lame.
But the calling out wasn’t what shocked me. It was how it was done. Not yelling. Not passive-aggressive sighing or eye-rolling. Just plainly put. Honest. Stern and with genuine and deserved, not really annoyance or irritation, but more disappointment. The message was clear, not judgement, just awareness. Him reminding me, “We’ve talked about this. This is a distraction. It could become a problem. I don’t want that. I don’t think you want that. You’re smarter than this. You’re better than this. Fix it. I’ll help if you need. But, you’re better than this. So do better. You’ll get it.”
My first reaction was to fight back. Except no one was fighting me. To argue and excuse. Those aren’t the right responses either. What I needed to do, as I’m learning with my own ignorance on intersectional feminism, was to shut the fuck up and listen. No, no, no..still trying to talk. I can tell. Be quiet. And listen.
He was right.
So far tonight, I’ve been quiet. I’ve spent lots of time looking at videos and tutorials on the software. I still don’t get a word, but I’ll go back to it. Maybe keep trying. Maybe not. But I hope so.
No one put the red lines on me tonight. But I still see them. Hopefully, with enough work and trying and then more of both, I can let them fade. I’ll do better. I’ll get it.