By MELVINA HAYES
This post was written as an assignment for professor Brynn Saito's multi-genre MFA-level writing workshop, WRC 7093. In this class, students produce new fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, while reflecting on their lives, influences, and processes as artists and writers.
"Is it logical/rational that anyone would be afraid of the work that they were put here on earth to do?"
— Elizabeth Gilbert
A beautifully polished, authentic, fragrant piece of redwood, suggestive of utter, aristocratic Art Deco’rum is where my prized possession, which I birthed, lay to rest: my debut memoir/novel. Not always living in full possession of my SELF, I fell prey to the attacks of one who took issue with my transparence, depictions of his character and ultimately, my audacity.
I was poised to receive more of the praise and encouragement that accounted for the majority of responses, when an individual—potentially the closest to me—delivered the harshest critique of a book I paid dearly for: I paid with the doldrums of solitude, sleepless nights, wrestling with my mind to distinguish thoughts to be penned from random “noise," the fear of alienation, and the intimidating publishing process. I had experienced a great deal of validation prior to his critique. The individual, who I should not only feel safe with, but protected by, I had disappointed, embarrassed, offended and ultimately exposed/shamed. Certainly, curtly he relayed his truth despite my bleeding heart and needy, broken posture. My gifts, my passions, my truth…I bartered for his comfort and a pretentious sentiment of flawless rearing.
I paid dearly. What was a celebrated work of art, with the acclaimed potential, proven potential, to bless the lives of many was laid to rest like a dusty family photo album with faded, colorless pictures covered in desiccated, cracked plastic.
But for transformation, I remain…encouraged by the insolence of Alice Walker:
- “All the mistakes I make arise from forsaking my own station and trying to see the object from another person's point of view."
- "I don't set out to upset people, but I've never been afraid to speak my truth," Alice explained. "In my life and in my art, I've been loyal to myself. And that distresses folks. It's their task, not mine, to understand why. "