Oh my emotions these days
like the bone dance
— Eloise Klein Healy
I walk along – my step light, my gaze ahead – the leaves barely crunching under my feet. Sun shines at me through the branches above, and the hints of snow sparkle in the shadows. Most days.
But then, a shadow springs large and hunched near my path, and I can feel it stalking close. I whip my face from side to side and feel as if every step I take echoes to the ears of any who might wish me ill . . . or silence.
Such go my days as a writer who has not yet learned to discern the wisdom from the trolling, the critique from the silencing.
Writing The Slaves Have Names has always felt like risk to me – risk that I would speak – or be perceived to speak – a story not my own. Risk that I would hurt people I care about because my perspective does not align with theirs. Risk that I would be attacked for poking at old, pus-filled wounds instead of letting them abcess and rot away at us for the rest of time.
This third attack – this one comes often – in fleeting Facebook comments and casual conversations. And while these comments make me livid, I toss them aside easily.
Thus far, no one has told me that the book has hurt them personally or that I have harmed their relationships with anyone else – so for that I am thankful.
But that first one, that first one still haunts me because, well, because I have been told this before – told that a white woman should not, cannot write stories of African American history. That this is not my place.
I hear those voices, and I honor them, respect them. I’m still trying to figure out how to speak without speaking FOR. How to speak for myself, to speak of this history as important for me. I remind myself I can do this. I can write stories – the important stories, the ones largely unheard – that is my role as a writer, a storyteller. That is my path.
So I continue to walk – even though sometimes I want to leave the path, sit in a cubicle, and keep my head down behind the half-walls.
And I try to listen to those critics so that I am kept true to MY path without being forced off the journey all together.
I move on, walking – the stories spiraling out before me.
What do you do when you receive critique on your work or your words? How do you manage it?