“I know you love that phrase, but I don’t think it works. ”
“That didn’t make sense.”
“What do you mean by ‘miracle’ in the fourth paragraph?”
This was how pillow talk went down at my house last week, when I broke down and asked Jeff to help me with my piece for Listen To Your Mother. The piece was good enough to get an audition before the producers, but I knew it needed a lot of work if I wanted to be selected for the show.
I know it’s hard to imagine, but sometimes I can be a pain in the ass to work with, because I’m defensive. And insecure. I do that super sexy thing where I completely shut down emotionally as soon as Jeff says anything I perceive as criticism. Example: He says, “Can I ask you a question?” I hear, “I think you’re writing is shit. Why don’t you take up origami?”
My signature move is turning any human utterance into criticism of me.
Therefore, it’s been my policy to avoid asking Jeff for assistance with my writing because he’s a
ruthless rigorous editor. Occasionally, I ask his permission to write about something that involves him, but then I hit publish and hope he’s not too mad when I put my own clever spin on our personal business for all the world to see (including that reader I have in Libya– Hi, Libyan reader!)
But I needed his help, so I invited him. To my writing.
I knew I would get my feelings hurt. I knew I would want to hurl a Costco-sized jar of artichokes at his head. I knew I would disagree with him (because what the hell does he know with his MBA and his JD? He doesn’t know language like I do). But I also knew I needed him.
And boy, did he have a lot to say. Every. Single. Night. We started on Monday night and by Thursday he was still chopping up the draft and questioning my word choice. He’s not the fan of hyperbole and exaggeration that I am, so you can imagine that he didn’t appreciate about half of my verbal flourishes.
Every time he opened his mouth I felt defensive. But I’d made a promise to myself to be a good partner– one who could listen to and take in the feedback without losing her shizz. As we all know, I am not that kind of partner, but I pretended each night that I was.
I swallowed my first reactions to his critiques, my impulsive ” You never loved me” and went with the more subdued, like ”hmmm, I think you have a point.”
The draft got stronger.
Each night I was less defensive.
Friday night was our last practice session before the audition. Jeff was still challenging my structure and asking for clarification on things that seemed obvious to me. There were surges of defensiveness that night, but I went to sleep feeling good about my piece.
Last night, I found all the drafts with Jeff’s handwritten edits. I picked them up to throw them out, but stopped myself. These drafts? They are my love letters. Each stroke of the pen says to me that Jeff loves me and supports me and will give up his free time to help me improve my writing. He could have done anything he wanted with those hours, but he chose to give them to me.
And today, I am disappointed that I was not selected to be in the show, but I received so many gifts just from getting as far as I did. Afterall, I got those love letters. And maybe next year we can try again.