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Is that the best you can do?

In high school I spent one year on the yearbook staff. I started the class really excited, and I ended the class hoping never to speak of it again. When my mother saw the section I’d worked on–the advertising section, which I hated but did work hard on–she said, “That doesn’t look very good. That’s the best you can do?”

Or maybe she said, “That’s terrible.”

It’s hard to remember exactly because what I remember best was the pain that went through my chest. My mother wasn’t a mother of false praise.

The ads weren’t good though. I’d struggled with designing the ads. My relationship with the teacher was a disaster since I realized I wasn’t pretty enough to warrant his attention.

Maybe that wasn’t the problem. But I knew the popular boys and girls invited him to their parties and that sometimes he went.

You probably don’t need to be told I wasn’t ever invited to these parties. But I didn’t want to go to their parties. I wanted my mother to tell me I’d done a great job, that I had talent, that I should be an artist when I grew up.

She said (and this I remember), “I wouldn’t show that work to anyone if I were you.”

Twenty-five years later and I still haven’t.

So, last night I sent my “final” draft of my novel to my publisher. (Final until I get edits backs, that is.) All I have to do is wait for her to read the rewrites and tell me what she thinks.

It’s funny how something said to you years ago can stay lodged in your brain for decades. I wouldn’t show that work to anyone.

And here’s me trying to send my novel out for the world to see. (Although, the world isn’t going to see it. A tiny group of friends and some random strangers.)

We’ll see how it goes.

3 thoughts on “Is that the best you can do?

  1. The image at the top is a perfect illustration for this post: the girl who has all the words bubbling, boiling powerfully behind her raises a hand, and stars fly out. I’d show that work to anyone.

    I was lucky, I think, in not knowing anyone else who wanted to be a writer, so no one had any judgment to offer, really, one way or the other. Your mom was an artist herself, and (depending on the artist, depending on the mom) that situation is ripe for… well, not betrayal exactly. For less-than-total support, maybe.

    And I lucked out with my high school yearbook, too. We didn’t have a yearbook class as such, so the faculty person (who did teach journalism, which I didn’t take until college) was just dubbed “adviser.” He turned out to be a great friend, as did the other kids on the staff. Got some great stories out of that year. If I hadn’t done the yearbook — the adviser surprised me by making me “literary editor”; I didn’t even know such a thing existed — it’s hard for me to picture my arc as a writer. Granted, a not particularly successful writer, but still.

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