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Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Can I Tell You a Story?

It’s been almost a full year since I started this blog and even with almost 200 posts filed I’m still struggling to find my voice. I’ve spent more than a decade honing my commercial writing skills by developing marketing campaigns, business collateral and writing for trade publications, and along the way I lost my ability to write from my heart.

When I started Shout, my intent was simply to rediscover my writer’s voice. I wanted to find that young girl who used to be able to sit for hours with pad and pen and ink my way through a million dreams. I wanted to become a story teller, and I wanted a public forum in which to bounce my toes in a puddle of inspiration. Frustrated and nauseated with some of my dribble here and in other creative writing pursuits, I realized that I’m still approaching my personal writing with the same measured voice I use as a commercial writer. I need to find a way to break the strong hold.

My husband, equally frustrated by my nagging inability to gut-wrench a single story out of my mental filing cabinet, suggested he act as an assignment editor and volunteered to prescribe story prompts from my life. He and I are a great team but he’s also the one person whose constructive criticism spanks my pride. I can’t decide if agreeing to work with him in this capacity will make me want to strangle him on a daily basis, or not.

What would you do? Would you accept help from the person whose judgment hurts the most, but who is uniquely positioned to push your boundaries, or would you decline and look for a route that requires less endurance and marital strife?

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21 comments to Can I Tell You a Story?

  • That’s such a tough one. I can see how smooth the latter choice would be. Easy-peasy. But ultimately that choice would still leave you frustrated creatively. If breaking free is what you want, and it sure sounds like it is, then the only choice to make is the former.

    patoiss last blog post..Haiku: Never Ending

  • Amy

    Let me say I love my husband very much and I can tell him everything and do! But we are so different and blogging is enjoyable to me and I think he would burst my bubble! Because I too would take his words to heart (maybe even differently then he meant them to be) and so this is tough!

    I think that you are stuck between the formal and the creative (which I am not saying is a bad thing, I love reading your posts) and need to venture out without approval from anyone. Take chances, take risks! Share with hubby when you want to and don’t if when you don’t want to!

    Great answer, huh!!!!! Keep writing!

    Amys last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  • Your goal is to write, right? But they say that you shouldn’t ask your friends or family to criticize your work. I think this is mostly because your friends and family would say, “I love it! This is great!” which doesn’t help you because it doesn’t make you write better.

    But, if hubby’s criticism is too hard to take, then don’t take it. You can certainly take his prompts to help you to write, but you don’t have to show it to him. Show it to someone else if you want feedback. If hubby is a good editor, however, then maybe someday you can get past the vulnerability, or he can temper his criticism to only specific aspects that you are ready to hear.

    If you need to grow thicker skin before showing him anything, then do that with other writers (there are critique groups EVERYWHERE!)

    You may never be able to ask hubby to critique your work and that’s OK. It’s probably the hardest review to receive. It’s hard not to take constructive criticism personally from a husband (no matter how objective they try to be). It’s the ultimate equivalent of “Does this story make my butt look fat?” Sometimes, you just don’t ask a question if you’re not ready to hear the truth.

    I encourage you to do whatever keeps you writing, not what could prevent it!

    Good Luck!

    Margaret (Nanny Goats)s last blog post..World of Warcraft Sucks at Proper Promo

  • Nice post from the heart ;) . Gutsy, too. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to ask for advice, heh.

    I blog for fun. And also to release my creative energy on the unsuspecting —unwashed masses— internet (did the dashes pass for a strike-through?). My motto so far? If it’s not fun, don’t do it. I vote for keeping it fun, or at least, as fun as you can.

    :D

    goodfathers last blog post..Seven

  • I think only you can decide what the right thing for YOU is. It wouldn’t work for Briefcase to be criticizing my writing. I actually kind of wish he wouldn’t even read my posts. I keep little notebooks around – one in my purse, one in my car, a couple around the house. I jot down things when/if they come to my brain. Those end up being my prompts. Most are discarded, but out of the many I use a few.

    I also wrote “for a living” in a much more formal, structured sense. For me, Twenty Four At Heart is just a fun, silly, outlet. I’m clearly not trying to impress anyone. (I do poke fun at myself on a regular basis!) That’s why I find it so ironic that I’m now getting contacted by publishers and marketing departments. The idea of it makes me laugh out loud.

    If it counts for anything, I love reading what you write. I mean that quite sincerely.

  • I would be reluctant to bring my spouse into it, and you also sound reluctant.

    garys last blog post..whip it good!

  • I thoroughly understand your concern. Any writing I do, comes from the heart. It’s not great but it’s adequate. Early on, the only comments I’d get from my partner (on the blog) were about the content and not the writing or the photography. In private, I’d hear the well-intentioned criticism about “passive voice” and other terms that really didn’t mean much to me because I am not a writer. I didn’t live and breath writing, and earn degrees in journalism and edit manuscripts, write and sell a humourous book and moderate a writer’s forum. I wasn’t looking for professional feedback from the one person who could tip my ego one way or the other. The balance would be fine, but it would have been nice to hear that he liked what I wrote. He’s better at that now. ;)

    So, if it were me and mine, I’d gratefully accept the prompts and proudly show him the finished post.. moments before you hit “send” or even afterward. I’d ask for minimal crit.. like typos or glaring faux-pas in grammar and thank him kindly for his help. And I’d feel (as I do with mine) very grateful that he shows an interest.

    All that having been said, I think you’re a wonderful writer, and if you have an inner writing voice that’s not quite coming out, the prompts should help to reach the more emotional side of you, and you’ll probably step away from what you perceive as your commercial writing voice.

    Hilarys last blog post..Shades of Autumn

  • Jan

    Count me among those that blog for fun – I spend WAY too much time writing for work to consider my blog a serious writing endeavor.

    Since Beloved already often dictates and critiques what I write professionally – we both write the marketing material, press releases, etc. for his business – I wouldn’t have a problem with it. However, I agree with Margaret on this one; do what keeps you writing, not what prevents it. If you think you can remain objective about Hubby’s suggestions/critiques, then his input will be invaluable. If you can’t, don’t do it.

    Jans last blog post..Friday Randomness…On Wednesday

  • Hmmm… our husbands might be related. My Ever Loving and Patient Husband is an Engineer and a computer geek. I always take his “constructive criticism” as a personal slap to the ego. (“There’s always room to improve.”) When I started my blog just a few months ago I didn’t tell him. I didn’t ask him for any help. I wanted to do it myself, for me.

    My initial thought was no, I wouldn’t work with him, because then the writing wouldn’t be “all mine”. But then I thought he might be the perfect person to nudge me it a completely different direction. Because the direction I’m going in isn’t quite working. And it’s not like you’re locked into this “deal” forever. Once you hit your groove you can say “Thanks Honey! I’ll take it from here!”

    Lindas last blog post..First an Award, Now Prizes!

  • Eek! Tough call for sure. I like the idea of floating content ideas. Maybe he could brainstorm a few and drop them in a hat for you to pull from on a dry day.

    Honestly, I think the blog process is supposed to be that never ending quest to find your voice and test the waters of expression. Blogs give you the freedom to change course as time goes on without apology.

    As for writing from the heart, I think you do that frequently. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it because it’s mixed in with other basic life stuff.

    Lisa Ps last blog post..Not Yet

  • Tough call. But if you do agree to have him help, remember he is doing it because he loves you. If he didn’t he wouldn’t bother trying to help.

    WickedStepMoms last blog post..AHHHHH!!!

  • kristy

    My take on the hole thing is that you wouln’t be posing the question if you thought it was a great idea. I think that your husband would be incrediably helpful to bring out your creativity but lets face the facts…. You have never been the kind to be inspired by being told what to write about. You always have been the type to jump right when told left and to challenge the authority of fact and fiction. You work from home and are an amazing writer and self proclaimed buisness woman for a reason. You work well alone!! I can see the prescribed story plots working for a little while but then soon you would be bored and he would give you a assignment that you didn’t want to do and the entire thing would be down the drain. I hope this doesn’t sound harsh, that isn’t my intent. You are an amazing writer and we all know what you are capable of. I know that you can find what you are looking for you just haven’t found the right path in the maze yet. Keep looking because it is there. You have all the potential in the world to complete the quest you are on.
    Your loving sister.

  • kristy

    p.s. I also think that you are strong and can take the spanking to the pride. That isn’t the issue, I don’t think you would like to be told what to write about on a personal level. You have to take direction at work on what to write. Let him be your sounding board for ideas and he can inspire you that way.

  • My husband’s criticism hurts the worst for me too (even if it’s constructive), and as a result, I tend NOT to show him my writing because I haven’t figured out how to handle it. Now, if I thought for sure that he could take my writing to the next level, I might try to endure the pain…but he’s a business guy so I can’t say that’s a given.

    I guess you could try it for a while and see how it goes. Mucking thru the pride and emotion might be a big payoff for you.

    thatcoolbroads last blog post..Be proud of your roots…just not the grey ones growing out of your head.

  • I love this post. I love when bloggers open up and share that they are human and they are struggling with their writing. Not because I’m mean, but it comforts me in that we all have the same struggles and that I’m not the only one trying to find my own voice.

    Who do you write for? Who do you imagine your audience is? My “audience” has changed in my mind countless times. But if I imagine my audience as me, the future me, then I find that my stories flow easier. I would definitely talk with your husband and use him as a sounding board. I have to say, this post and your post about where your parents would go in the event that they needed care are my favorite posts from you. I feel like those posts let me in and know you a little better. What ever path you take with your writing, I’ll still be here. I’d read you if you just posted what you ate for dinner. I like it over here that much.

    steenky bees last blog post..This Post Was Supposed to be About How I Wanted to End Memes, But Then a Really Cool Chick Tagged Me So I Chickened Out.

  • Ung. Tough question! I both love it and hate it when my husband reads my blog. I don’t think – no wait, I know I could not work with him on my content.

    Tricia, I appreciate your writing style even if you are still working on it. You come across to me like someone who is even-keeled, professional (yes, I can tell you are a business woman, but that is not a bad thing at all!), introspective, and intelligent. You have a lot of qualities that I wish I could channel more often! Maybe you feel like you need to let your hair down sometimes, but I wish I could learn to zip my huge yaw and be more concise sometimes.

    Anyway, I think we all go through these spells where we feel like we’re writing a bunch of junk and wonder where our voice ran off to. At least, I’m going through that kind of a phase right now.

    And at any rate, I love being a regular reader of Shout!

    HeatherPrides last blog post..You Always Trick the Ones You Love

  • huh…steenky bees comment really hit home with me just now. I had a EdPsych prof in University that ran a tight ship, covered the material in a professional manner, clear, concise and always on track. But she never really connected with us until she shared some personal details about the struggles her little boy was having in school, and that marked a turning point in the class. She opened up, we opened up, and a really good class became a fabulous class and an amazing learning environment. I find your blog posts intellectually challenging and thought provoking. And beautifully, professionally written. If what you mean by ‘voice’ is the emotional connection, i don’t think adding another level of professionalism, ie by having your husband act as an assignment editor would help, unless he stayed out of it after making said assignment…i don’t think it would be possible to not project his thoughts and feeling onto yours. Writing from the heart doesn’t require editing, only fearlessness and passion and commitment to the topic at hand. You already write about the things that you feel a connection too, try not worrying too much about your audience’s reaction or a possible rejection slip. Just write. Chances are they will love it.

    thistles last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  • Tricia

    I think you are all wonderful and your ideas and comments gave me some honest moments of reflection, and some ideas. Thank you! I have several stories rolling around inside my head and I just need to pick one and start writing rather than spending so much time thinking about not writing. I’m not sure how much will end up on the blog, but the story of how I became a mother and our journey through surrogacy is probably the most compelling narrative I want to get on paper. It may help clear my head if I can capture it outside of my mind and run my fingers through the details.

  • Tricia, I can’t wait to hear your story of surrogacy! I have been curious about it. I don’t know anyone who has gone through the process myself, so I would love to learn about it from you.

    HeatherPrides last blog post..Your Vote Counts on The Short Bus

  • I really shouldn’t dish out advice but OK, you did ask. If your husband’s critique gives you fits, then I would say no. Is it possible that he could give you the prompts to get your creative juices flowing but hold back the comments? Like, “Hey, Tricia, why don’t you write about the time we…… Just a thought.

    Smart Mouth Broads last blog post..I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

  • i say noooooooo! the writing process is way too gut-wrenching to involve a spouse. if you need help with your voice, and writing prompts, i highly recommend the book pen on fire by barbara demarco-barrett.

    Memarie Lanes last blog post..Guns n’ Baseball

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