On Being Praised

I handed in a short story to my tutor last night and spent a wakeful night wondering what she’d think of it. When I checked my email this morning, I found a very very glowing response. This is her comment at the top of the manuscript:

Janette, I thought I’d have a quick little look at this and couldn’t stop reading. I am thrilled with this story! Its terrific! You have presented your reader with a wonderful picture of the woman . We get right inside her head as she suddenly wakes up to the fact that her marriage is over. You have used so many excellent phrases… the sticky ties of family and obligation. … Yesterday, I stood within walls, under a sheltering roof; today, I cower in the rubble under the open sky….. . I don’t have a god. The universe in all its limitless indifference is what I’ve got….. I hit the wood with a splat, like a pancake hitting the floor. No, actually there are too many pithy phrases and images to pick them all… but they have added quite a masterful touch to this story. This has great emotional strength and is also funny …great combination.
I honestly have NO complaints or suggestions. (Just very few remarks in your ms, also the last line ) This is the sort of story I would like to write myself! You have restored my faith in my students, Janette!

Hours later and I’m still buzzing about her response. I’m pleased with the story and with the voice of the main character. It’s wonderful to get such a positive reaction and know that someone really responded to something I wrote.

Oddly enough, it’s also a little scary to get that sort of enthusiasm. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe my imposter syndrome kicks in and I fear being found out. Maybe I fear that I can’t possibly meet this standard again and will inevitably disappoint the tutor. Maybe I worry that I’ll get swell-headed. Or maybe I fear that the universe will squash me like a bug if I get too uppity. The whole “pride cometh before a fall,” thing. If I pop my head over the parapet to acknowledge that I’m okay at this story writing lark, someone might just shoot it off. Maybe not trying too hard or expecting too much feels safer.

Whatever the cause, it’s a funny thing to be unnerved by praise.

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2 Responses to On Being Praised

  1. iamroewan says:

    This is great!

    I’m laughing too (in a wry sort of way), because like most women you’re double thinking well-deserved praise. Men are simpler. A man would take that praise, blow it up into glorious dimensions and proclaim to the world that His Story is Great and that He is the Best Writer his instructor Ever Had in her class! And that is probably the sum total of what he would think.

    I say, be proud!

    • janstra says:

      You’re right. I need to stop analysing and just be pleased.
      Your man made me smile – I’ve met those blokes and their uppercase self-regard. Perhaps I need to get a bit more bloke-ish myself in my old age.

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