I was careful in choosing the right words, maybe a little too careful. Some of my classmates didn't like that. "You can't allude to something in your story - you need to spell it out!" They said. Their tone felt harsh and in that moment I wanted to close my eyes. Not see them. Not feel the sting of their comments.
But the reality was that my classmates hadn't got what they needed from my story. They weren't able to look that close, read between the lines so that they could easily see what was inside my heart. See the pain that has lived in there. No, my words needed to convey more. They wanted more than I was prepared to give them. And hearing something with a negative tone attached to it - hurt.
You see, for almost thirteen years I have been estranged from my youngest son, the fall out from my divorce. Throughout those years I have always felt a deep desire to write about the pain of being separated from him, the consequences of a marriage ending and how that has effected my relationship with my son.
There are questions that have plagued my mind. Answers that I wish I had. I wrote to find healing, and maybe, just maybe my story would one day help someone else through a similar healing process.
I knew my story was not unique. I also knew that I wasn't alone in my plight. Being a Christian didn't exempt me from the painful circumstance either. Estrangement knows no boundaries.
I had never shared my story with anyone, least of all a room filled with strangers. But in the fall of 2016 I set out to do just that - let others read the story that broke my heart. I enrolled in an eight week writing class that was supposed to provide me with feedback but I had no idea what that would feel like once I received it.
A dozen faces stared at me and each person took their turn at telling me what they liked or didn't like. It was no longer my tears that smeared the black ink on the white pages, it was their comments that seemed to mare the pages. It was a tough eight weeks. A real learning curve in a writer's world.
Psalm 16:8 "I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken."
But I was shaken. As I looked down at the blank paper I had placed in front of me, I began to write their comments down, one after the other. I had trouble allowing the encouraging comments to outweigh the harsh tone of others.
But it was my first intensive writing class and the first time my writing was critiqued. I must admit, it knocked the wind out of my writing sails and took away my desire to move forward with my story.
That night, I received a pleasant surprise - an email arrived in mail box from one of my classmates. She wanted to let me know that she was sorry for the way my critique had gone. She said, "it isn't what people say that hurts - it's how they say it." She couldn't have been more right. Those words came as a blessing to me. God orchestrated, I'm sure.
I finished the class in December and over the winter my story has remained untouched. It hasn't been at the top of my list of projects to carry on with. It wasn't as if I haven't thought about it. I have.
And then, just the other day another email arrived. The same classmate letting me know that she was signing up for the spring session of the same writing and critiquing class. She wondered how I was coming along with my story and asked if I would be joining again. If not, she wanted to encourage me to find a way to keep writing. "You need to share your story. You're a good writer." She said.
How wonderful to hear from her once again!
I'm not sure where this story will go. I just know that at this point, it remains - an unfinished story.