Jun 27, 2009


by Cindy R. Williams

A turtle is safe in it's mobile home. Are we turtles? Do we hide our writing?

"I don't want anyone to see my work in progress."

"My story is pretty good just how it is."

"I don't need critiques."

Have you ever heard any of these before? Have you ever said or thought one or more of these yourself?

Those statements are fear, false, and full of pride. Our stories may be great but sometimes we miss connecting with the reader. In our mind we have the whole story and understand everything so assume the reader will too. But are we really showing all that we feel in the written version of the story. A fresh eye, or many fresh eyes are invaluable. We need to stick our head and neck out of the safety of our turtle shells.

Being critiqued, as you know, is a humbling experience. Sometimes we have a tough shell and others times our shell is so soft it hurts to the core. I try to listen with an open mind, jot down comments and review them later when I can remove my shell --- pride --- and be objective. Then I know which comments to address and which ones to toss.

In my writing class, Dr. Goodfellow pounds us with: "How did he feel?" and "Show the story, don't tell the story." I have been studying with her for two and a half years. I work hard at showing, and including what the character feels, yet the red marks continue. I sometimes come home frustrated that my classmates just didn't get it. After I let it sit a day or two then go back to it, I realize that I did not write what I saw and felt in my mind and heart. My classmates cannot read my mind even though they know me, so how is a stranger going to get it?

I believe in myself. I believe I can write and I believe I can improve everyday. I believe in you. If we have the desire to tell a story, we have to be willing to go the distance, and that includes climbing out of our hard, defensive shell. This can be painful, but it is necessary for our stories to be their best and for us to grow.

I think I will reread this after my next critque session.


  1. Great analogy! (I happen to LOVE turtles, BTW, having had one swim inches away from me for about 5 minutes in Hawaii)... anyway, I love all that you point out. It's so true. Good food for thought. Thanks!

  2. Very well put. I'm impressed with your diligence and professionalism. I'm thinking it's time I did likewise. It's one thing to play around and dream, and quite another to knuckle down and DO IT. Thanks for your inspiring words.

  3. Thanks Stephanie and Anna. I like turtles too. They are so self sufficient and even tempered as well.

  4. The show me don't tell me is hard to fathom. And critics can often be at odds with one another, but you are so right about that fresh eye. At my mag, we rely on 3 sets of eyes for each piece. Yes, it's that necessary; and yes, there are huge gripes over the editing; but I repeat they are necessary.

  5. Thanks for your comment Terri. Good words of advice.

  6. love the analogy Cindy! Yes, you can write...and you do it so well!

  7. Thanks Kari, nice comment from one I admire!


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