This piece below, from seventeen-year-old Maureen Tanafon, struck home with me. As readers, and sometimes as pompous, envious, or novice writers, we tend to ride others hard, underestimate them, chastise their work a little too harshly not realizing there's a human being on the other end who is fighting against not only editors and readers, but also herself.
There's a person on the other end of those words.
So I begged Maureen to let me express her thoughts here on my blog as well as in WritingKid to young writers . . . to old writers . . . to all writers. To teachers, mentors, and librarians.To anyone who has tried to write, as well as to anyone who's read a story and loved or hated it. To nonwriters who know writers, and don't know what to say to them. To families of writers. To their friends.
There's a person on the other end of those words. He or she tried very hard, pouring weeks, months or years into that piece you just read. It might not suit you, or you may think it droll, but do you have to rip it up because it isn't your cup of tea?
I'm a believer in reviews. However, if I cannot give a good review, I give no review. Just because I didn't enjoy a piece doesn't mean my taste dominates. I'm not a Barbara Kingsolver fan, which in some circles is blasphemy, but it is what it is. However, I don't go around bashing the woman's work. Her success shows her worth.
Just because I didn't enjoy a piece doesn't mean my taste dominates.
When you're holding a book or even a short story in your hands, take a second to imagine the author on the other end who struggled to get the words right. The author who worked into the night, early in the morning, between jobs, to compose a good story that would please you. When somebody gives you a gift, and you don't like it, do you bash him for his effort?
Thanks, Maureen. Your young viewpoint touched my heart, and I wanted to share your lesson, a very adult lesson, to as many people as possible.
Just A Few WordsBy Maureen Tanafon
You never know what words might touch you.
You never know what words of yours might touch others.
Recently, on the site Hands Free Mama, I was touched deeply and painfully by one of the articles. It was upon the subject of not missing the chance to know your children; and because my relationship with my own mother has been so broken and difficult, it tore me apart emotionally to read it - a mother speaking with such loving tenderness of her daughter.
I wrote a rambling comment - like many writers, I have issues with restricting myself to small spaces - about myself, my mother, and (among other things) how she had negatively impacted my writing. Without even meaning to, with a few words, my mother destroyed my drive to write for years at a time. There were plenty of other things I said; but the matter of writing, of how I had been harmed there, was a central issue. Writing is life to me, and I was still deeply bitter and insecure about it. Even as I hit the 'post comment' button I was bracing myself, imagining how stupid everyone would think me.
Instead, I found a reply showing up within half an hour. Rachel Stafford, the wonderful woman who runs Hands-Free Mama, wrote back with the most compassionate words anyone has ever given to me. She gave me sympathy, told me that I was insightful and wise - but one line stood out among the rest, made me stop and stare at it.
"I was only a few sentences into your comment when I said to myself, 'This young lady is a writer. You are a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you differently."
This young lady is a writer.
I burst into tears. I grinned like an idiot. I wrote the words down in colored pencil and put it on my bookshelf. A few words. That's all it takes to give writing a severe blow - or to give the desire to write a new, passionate strength.
You could be the one to give those few words. Rachel told me to remember that words had the power to inspire; that you never know when what you're saying is exactly the right thing at exactly the right time for someone. And she's right. Remember that every time someone tells you your writing isn't important, or the doubtful voice in your head tells you it won't matter.
Because guess what?
You're a writer.
And so is this young lady.
Maureen Tanafon is a seventeen-year-old writer living in New England, where all the monsters come from. She is almost, definitely, practically finished on the first draft of her first complete book, and has many, many more planned out. She is vaguely pleased by referring to herself in the third person. While not writing you can usually find her drawing, renovating her room, or thinking about writing.