For whatever reason, getting my short story critiqued in class on Thursday just really threw me off the good groove that I started the day with. I'd baked an apple cake and was all cheerful and ready to enjoy it with my class and get the course off to a good finish. But when we started discussing my story, I just felt like--and this is where the bad outweighing the good starts to come in--nobody liked my story at all, or even understood it for that matter. I guess I just wasn't expecting the kind of reaction that I got, especially because I thought there was at least a touch of truth and love and beauty in what I'd written. And see, I'm exaggerating, because nobody said there wasn't; in fact, when I read over my classmates' written comments, it was clear that more people liked the story than didn't, and even those who thought it needed more work said it was a great start and they enjoyed reading it. But for some reason I left the class feeling terrible, like I'd just found out most of the world privately thinks I'm worthless and despicable.
Actually, that feeling--of having been personally attacked--isn't too far from the truth, or some version of it anyway. One criticism people had of the main character in my first story was that she seemed "too perfect," which I hadn't even realized would be an issue; I certainly hadn't set out to write a character with no flaws. This time, people said my character came across in some scenes as arrogant and condescending, and I was utterly taken aback. I hadn't intended her to be that way, at all. These kinds of criticisms wound me in ways so deep that though I've been struggling since Thursday night, I still can't completely understand what's going on in my head when I react to them. All I can tell you is that I put a lot of myself into my characters (and that's one of the main reasons I like them), so when people react negatively to them, I feel like their dislike is directed at me. This isn't coming out of nowhere: the truth of the matter is that I have been told before, by multiple people, that sometimes I can come across as too perfect, or a little too conceited about my many talents. I don't like false modesty--I would never deny that I am good at many things, and I think it's just honesty for me to say so--but I am truly hurt to think that I might come across as arrogant to some people. I am such an insecure person at heart, and I've worked so hard to develop my own self-confidence, and have spent so much time and effort learning how to project a confident public persona, I'm distressed to think that I may only have been cultivating an outward image that people don't like. I don't know! I don't think people hate me, but their responses to my fictional characters really made me question whether my position in others' minds is quite as secure as I had thought. But then I want to ask people, what do you want me to do? My characters are too perfect, so you say, and maybe you think that about me, too. You want me to enlarge and develop the flaws in us both, myself and my characters? My confidence is hard-won. I'm not wanting to put cracks in it just to make you feel better. Boy, that sounds vicious. But this has really been getting me down. I really don't know why this is bothering me so much. If my writing class has taught me anything, it's that no two people will ever agree on any judgment of anything, so there's nothing to worry about. But I just can't help but feel down about the whole business. To top it all off, that was our last class meeting, so now I'm left feeling a little bit sour about the whole creative writing experience, and that's exactly the opposite of what I should be feeling now as I sit down to write my final revision for the class.
I left class on Thursday and got on the bus and just kind of stewed all the way home, until I got into my apartment. Then I plunked myself in front of my computer and stewed there, depressed and down, unable to do anything except play Pelpet and obsessively refresh the Southwest flight status page to check on the delays in Erik's flight. (Silver lining: I have a new high score in Pelpet. It's either 670 or 730-something, not sure now which.) You know I've got something on my mind when even the prospect of seeing Erik can't cheer me up, despite my having looked forward to his visit for the past three weeks. I got in the car and put on some Miles Davis and stewed all the way to the airport, then I sat in the waiting area and reread my classmates' comments on my story and made little scribbles in the margins and stewed some more until Erik showed up, smiling.
At some point in my stewings I had realized that my bad mood was probably due to my not having eaten a real meal all day, so once Erik arrived I shuttled us off to Toi and got me a hot dinner and some camomile tea. Along the way, and while we were eating, I ranted and whined to Erik about everything that was bothering me. I love Erik so much because I know he would have done and said anything to make me feel better, and yet his indignation and outrage at my upset-ness was completely genuine. He was entirely and truly appalled that anyone might not like my story, or not like me (and again, no one said that, I assure you I'm overreacting), and he said so over and over again. Love may be blind, but that night I was just so, so grateful for his unconditional support and comfort. *face scrunches up* I miss Erik. Why does he always have to leave again so soon?
We managed to pack a lot into our few days together. On Friday, we explored the Mid-Wilshire Farmers' Market and had a satisfying hot-weather lunch at Pho LA (I hope their past problems have been taken care of!), got mistaken for Koreans while at California Market looking for instant Bi Bim Naeng Myon, had a short ramble at Runyon Canyon Park, and hung out and played computer games and had a huge dinner made out of what we got at the market. Saturday, we walked to Arclight and watched The Upside of Anger, which we loved and which I highly recommend (despite some flaws which have been pointed out in many reviews). Arclight is insane: $11 gets you a wide, cushy assigned seat with lots of legroom, great picture and sound quality, none of that ugly pre-preview in-theatre advertising, and no lines in the women's restrooms! I'm going to go there for sure the next time I want to see a movie. Eleven dollars is pricey, but it's still less than I'd pay for almost any concert, and the experience is definitely comparable. After the movie we came home and Erik made me a nice dinner while I tried to get started on work.
So we had a pleasant weekend as usual, but hanging over it all were hints of the same gloom that had plagued me on Thursday night. I still wasn't feeling entirely reassured about my story, and I was just a short step away from being depressed that Erik had to leave again on Sunday morning and flipping out because of all the work I have to finish in the next ten days. Buying Ritter Sport dark chocolate with hazelnuts and eating a quarter-loaf of that delicious soft white Asian toast bread has helped a little, as has writing this entry, but I'm still feeling far from cheerful. I know I'm PMS-ing, but I'm just not feeling my best right now.
Well, I've been working on this entry for an hour and a half now. Time to stop and get started on my work (and stop eating this bread!).