It's IWSG Day. The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. IWSG is the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh. To find links to other IWSG contributors, click here. Thank you to May co-hosts: Erika Beebe, PJ Colando, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine.
This month’s optional question: Have any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? If so, did it surprise you?
One of my earliest published pieces appeared in print and online. The essay, called “His and Her Unemployment" was a lighthearted look at the different ways in which my dear late-husband and I reacted to unwanted unemployment. His experience occurred earlier than mine when the company he worked at for 17-years went out of business. As for me, I wrote the essay real time, a few weeks after my position was eliminated in an economic downsizing.
All that time ago, my husband had been business-like about searching for employment. When he wasn’t focused on that, he used his free time to complete projects around our house. Because there had been anticipation his company would go under, he’d had a mental lead-up to his change in circumstances. While it wasn’t easy, when it happened, he got down to work, both job-search and otherwise. I, on the other hand, had zero warning. After 23 years, I was called to a meeting at two o’clock one afternoon. By four, I was out the door, dizzy with the speed and awfulness of it.
Like my husband, I updated my resume, attended outplacement meetings, (started this blog) and networked like crazy. But unlike him, I didn’t pick up a hammer or paintbrush. Once I completed my job search work each day (even now I feel the need to italicize that), I walked to clear my head. I met friends for hikes or coffee (picking their brains for career tips, I may add, as I figured out what would come next). I made trips to the city, visited family and, recognizing my husband’s diligence, wrote the essay acknowledging how much he’d done around the house when he was off work— admitting (wink, wink) the same couldn’t be said for me. I ended it tongue-in-cheek with something like, “There’s no escaping it. Pretty soon, I think I’ll have to paint the front porch.”
Along with the walking and the coffees, I was actively seeking employment and I believed the essay made that clear, until one anonymous reader wrote what felt like a scathing comment suggesting if I was collecting unemployment I didn’t deserve to. Let's just say the tone was— unpleasant. The outrage shocked me. All I’d intended was to poke a little fun at myself while comparing my husband’s home improvement diligence to—ahem—my lack of home improvement diligence.
I was darn tickled to get that essay published, but the comment tempered my pride. Eventually, the piece was archived, but for longer than I wanted, anyone who read it online could find those negative words, which to me, implied I was a slacker. It was my first real lesson in being wary of what I write for publication—you never know what will set someone off—and it landed a proverbial gut punch once I realized jobs come and go, but online comments last forever.
What feedback or comments have you received about your writing that surprised you?
Also, for anyone seeking a good book, may I recommend Little Matches, a Memoir of Grief and Light by Maryann O'Hara? Hopeful, heartbreaking, warming and real, her beautifully written message comes through loud and clear. Grief and joy can coexist. They're both elements of love.