Just get it...

Over the weekend, I pounded out about 2,000 words on a new book. That’s a lot. I felt like my brain was melting. Sunday night, I gathered my nerve and asked my wife to read and comment. 

She read it and didn’t say much. The next morning, I held up my laptop and said, “Any tips?” 

She said, “Nothing too big.” 

I waited for her mention some slight grammar failing or misspelling, but that was all she said. 

“Anything else?” I asked. 

She said, “No. If you like it, just get it.” 

It seemed like an odd pep talk. I thought maybe she was encouraging me to “Go for it” and just had a slip of the tongue. Not that useful, but, you know, supportive. Who knows what Hemingway’s wife/wives told him? 

I went upstairs, thought for a moment, then turned around, went back down and said, “I was asking you if you had any pointers on my book, but you were giving me advice about the Christmas tree I’m off to buy, weren’t you?” 

They say communication is the key to a good marriage. I’m not completely sure about that. On more than one occasion, I would have preferred not to know what my wife was thinking. However, every now and then when I’m thinking “Manuscript” and she’s thinking “Christmas tree,” it’s probably worth the time and effort to get things sorted. 

I’ve been sensitive to artistic criticisms ever since my third-grade teacher looked at an art project and said, “That is so interesting! Tell me about it.” 

I realize that critique doesn’t sound so bad, but my mom was a teacher and I’d heard some of her shop talk. I knew what I was really hearing was, “Kid, I have no idea what that’s supposed to be. Throw me a bone, for Pete’s sake.” 

In my defense, the project was meant to be a box to hold valentines, which I’d conceived to be a stallion, rearing and thrashing the air with its hooves. The vision was clear, but the skills were lacking. In the end, I wrestled some pipe cleaners into the shape of a cow and called it a day. 

I try my best to avoid the whole pipe cleaner/cow thing when I’m writing. I understand the concept that “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what is a heaven for,” but I also understand that you build a house one brick at a time and if the first course is crooked, no good will come of it. 

I also know that the only way to be a writer is to write, then let other people read what you’ve written, ask them to tell you what they think of it, and then decide if they’re right or wrong. 

It’s not so hard. It’s a little like standing up in a crowded place, stripping off all your clothes, and shouting, "Look at me! Look at me!” 

In truth, that’s exactly what it’s like. And while I’m certain that’s easy for some folks, for me, it’s torment. I was not raised to ever shout, “Look at me!” clothed or unclothed. 

Oh, well. Today I did another thousand words. And the Christmas tree looks good - real good. 

Copyright 2021 Brent Olson