When Criticism Isn’t Constructive

I self published my first book in September of 2017. The story had been totally completed and finalized…edited and re-edited…years before that, though. I showed a handful of people the story in those years before I published it. What not many readers know…what not many people in my LIFE know…is that one of the people I showed the story to (I printed a copy of the novel out and hole punched it and put it into a binder)…was my mom.

She didn’t read it. She turned about 5 pages and said she just ‘couldn’t get into it.’
I mean…fair. I’ve started books I didn’t finish. Sometimes you just aren’t feeling the story. Sometimes you’re bored. Sometimes you don’t connect to the characters. She handed me the binder back, unread. Basically untried. It’s okay. She was disinterested in what I wrote. I know the stories I write aren’t for everyone. No creation is. And I’m not averse to criticism. I solicit feedback from readers…from friends…from J…all the time. Sometimes they tell me things are unclear…they want more detail…the ending was too abrupt…and none of that ever hurts my feelings. In fact, since September of 2017, the feedback (positive and *constructive*) I’ve gotten from readers has done nothing but drive me to write MORE and write BETTER. But it wasn’t like that with Mom. And it never has been when she’s criticized me. When she’s been so flagrantly indifferent and divested about me and everything I do. It’s always hurt. Not even really because she’s never been proud of me, but because she’s never really cared about anything I cared about and never wanted me to share the important parts of my life with her.

I used to tell myself I expected too much from my mom. I expected too much support and too much enthusiasm. That I wasn’t being fair. After all…I’ve been told really often (most often by my mom) that I expect too much from people. That my expectations are too high…irrationally high.
But like…romantic fiction is *certainly* not J’s thing, and he gets excited FOR me about the writing. He reads things when I’m stuck and gives me *constructive* feedback. Same with some of my friends and readers who have become friends. And I gotta tell you something…if The Boy made something, even as an adult, even if it was something I ‘wasn’t into’…

‘Look Mom! I restored this 1957 Chevy Bel Air! Wanna take a ride?’…

‘Mom! I created a new video game and Sony bought it! Wanna play me?’…

I’d be soooooo excited about it and proud of him and you can bet your ass I’d want to play the game (I’ve never been interested in gaming) and I’d want him to drive me around in the car and talk about engine parts and tires and paint top coats and whatever…stuff I don’t know anything about at all, but I’d be thrilled to hear him be excited about it and to be enthusiastic about what he cares about.  Any song he writes is my new favorite song. Because…he’s my kid and he CREATED something; he worked hard on something he’s passionate about and *shared it with me.* That’s a part of a person’s soul, when they voluntarily share something they created…something they are passionate about with you. That’s open vulnerability. So…I’d take that really seriously, and while I can’t see into the future, I can’t imagine myself being anything less than joyful about his accomplishments…about his joy.

So it took me a couple of years to bounce back from how much it hurt my feelings that my mom gave up on the first novel I wrote without even really starting it. But I did eventually get over it. And that’s why I didn’t tell her that I published something for the whole world to see should they so choose, under a pen name, in September of 2017. My mom doesn’t know I self published anything. Because she won’t care. She won’t read them. She’ll probably tell me something like it’s a silly hobby and waste of time and I should be out working and making money at ‘a real job’ if I have that kind of time on my hands. Part of me still wants to tell her. I still have this ridiculous optimistic streak that she’ll prove all my negative expectations wrong. But I’ll never tell her. She doesn’t know my pen name. She’ll never know I wrote books. Because I have too long and consistent of a history with her to think with any rationality that this time will be different. Her criticism has never felt constructive.

The first book I ever self published…the first set of imaginary friends I introduced to strangers…is on sale in ebook format now for a limited time at $.99 per copy. 


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