I started writing this blog post on 1 January and was going to tell you all about a recent bad experience I had and how I was determined to not let it ruin my year. But halfway through writing it, I was hit with a revelation about this bad experience and it took the wind out of my sails (and the crux of my argument).
You see, at the end of November I was just about getting over the fact that I didn’t get into the Creative Writing Masters that I applied for last year, when I was emailed some feedback from the judging panel for the course about my portfolio. Uninvited feedback. Not only did I NOT get in, but I was about to find out just how badly I didn’t deliver what they were looking for…(you can tell I was definitely keeping an open mind about the situation). I read the comments briefly and immediately felt the heavy boulder of not being good enough bear down onto my chest and push me under water. And all those other times in my life when I wasn’t good enough came flooding back; the defeats, the break-ups, the jealousies and the closed doors. All the bad things I know about myself were once again confirmed. (I promptly filed the email in my F*ck This Sh*t folder and vowed to never look at it again).
Then I picked myself up off the floor and dragged the splinters of my self confidence over to South Africa where I explained to my parents what had happened. My parents, the academics, who had been so pleased that I wanted to pursue a Masters degree, and I had been so pleased that they were pleased. My parents, who work with postgraduate students on a daily basis and know the standard that is required. In my mind, I felt that taking the academic route to improve my writing was somewhat superior and getting any form of approval from this upper echelon is more valuable than any other kind of feedback.
My parents couldn’t have been more supportive. They told me of times where their work had been rejected and how they felt about it. And then they gave me this bag for Christmas and I promised myself that I wouldn’t.
So I started to write this blog post and decided to re-read the comments that were sent to me by the panel. I stopped in my tracks.
Reader 1: While you’re undoubtedly a good writer, the overwhelming space given to baby adventures just didn’t give us enough sense of what you were capable of in the creative area. The story and poems were interesting too, but all within the gravity field of baby, and all within the larger field of memoir. We would like to see you produce more creative work and then applying again. It doesn’t have to be our MA, but if it was, the next part time course would be starting 2016 (applications October 2015). In that time you could try out some fiction and develop a stronger portfolio. I hope you persist, because I think it will be worth it.
Reader 2: The writing in this portfolio is proficient, the subject matter narcoleptic. There does not seem to be any attempt at representing reproduction, in an innovative way. The writer does herself, her immediately apparent talent, a grave injustice by representing only the mundane, everyday obvious. As such the portfolio gives no indication of the “creative” part in the equation “creative writing”.
Because you see, the instant I was given the ‘no’ I gave up. And I read those comments from that perspective. Now I saw them differently. Clearly I had not followed the brief of what they were looking for, but that was their main criticism. Not my ability. Some of it was quite encouraging.
My only comments for Reader 2 are – narcoleptic?! Well I’m pleased to hear somebody’s getting any sleep around here! And you know what, my “mundane everyday obvious” is motherhood for me right now. The fact that I can string a sentence together IS creative….trust me on this!
Because I didn’t know until I was in this position, how much I had begun to doubt my abilities outside of being a mother. Because you do it all day long and then you come to the dreadful conclusion that this is all you can do. This is it. And a little voice says just have more babies and you’ll be fine. I fought that voice and egotistically thought my writing would always be awesome to everybody.
I’ve let it go and I’m not giving up.