I admire humble people at the same time I wonder why they don’t toot their own horn a little, maybe take a little credit for their humility. This is, I realize, antithetical to the whole notion of humility, still I believe in people claiming credit for the things they do, the people they are. It isn’t easy being a person. We should all get some praise.
A writing friend critiqued a story I wrote. Actually, he critiqued the second story I’d ever written because in my non-humble mind, I thought I should submit the story to a statewide writing contest. I don’t do submissions to literary journals and whatnot anymore, but I am a sucker for contests. Well, a few selected, Wisconsin-based contests. I’m not like people I used to know in high school who submitted slogans and jingles to hundreds of contests in the hopes of winning one. I’m much more realistic about my chances.
Anyway, I thought I’d polish up my precious story and go win first prize. I knew I’d have to turn down the week’s residency in a writers’ colony because the solitude/camaraderie would make me crazy plus I can’t seem to go anywhere without my dogs or my husband, for that matter, but I sure could take the prize money. More typewriter ribbons, don’t you know.
My friend was very careful in his review. He noticed inconsistencies in the story and made wonderful suggestions for improvement. At the end of his thoughtful critique, he reminded me that many fine writers would be entering the contest, meaning, I supposed, people who weren’t submitting the second story they’d ever written in their entire lives. I nodded and sent it in anyway. Thud.
This year’s contest just opened, and I decided right away that I should take out my story and rework it. Since his read, I’d had other folks do critiques and so there were now literally a dozen roads to improvement. Why not? I thought. Rewrite the whole thing. Shift it to first person, make the descriptions more vivid, give the dead husband a voice in the main character’s head, give the snow more shades of white. It was a winter story, after all.
But before I embarked on my grand revision (with the due date just two weeks away), I decided to take the unusual step of reading the stories of last year’s winners.
Oh Lord. It was ‘take your lopsided pumpkin cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting that you put on while the cupcakes were still warm so it’s running down the side of the cupcake paper to The Great British Baking Show.’ Why the hell not?
I am nothing now if not humble.