I’ve repeatedly mentioned in my scribbling here and there that I began writing as a ‘tiny tot’. It’s what I did in place of speaking because I was repeatedly told, “Children are meant to be seen and not heard.” So, I shut my mouth and I started writing. My pronunciation was horrendous, but you would never know that by reading my adolescent musings. No one knew that I struggled with pronunciation until I opened my mouth, which I didn’t do very often. I lived a silent life that was made up of unabating reading and writing.
Everybody has to grow up, and I grew up with pen in hand. I continued to write, improved my pronunciation, to some extent, and decided to be an English major because as a child I had already dubbed myself a writer, and I had a lot to say. I learned to laugh at my sporadic mispronunciations, and I still, to this day, laugh at myself when I fumble in my speech. Why not laugh? It’s funny, and when you can convince someone else that your mispronunciations were deliberate traps to see if they were, in fact, paying attention to you, it’s even funnier.
I continued to write through the majority of my naval career. I had a weekly Q&A column in the Hawaii Navy News that was somewhat satirical. I forever worried that the Admiral would shut me down, but it turned out that he was one of my biggest fans. In addition to the weekly column I had in the Hawaii Navy News, I was given carte blanche to establish and publish as senior editor two newsletters during two other assignments during my naval career, all of which kept my words flowing. I always knew within my knowing place that my military career was the means to the ability to retire and spend my remaining days writing, and so I did whatever I could do to keep my pen from running dry. However, two back-to-back deployments – Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) took their toll on my psyche, as well as my writing. I laid my pen down in 2005 and did not pick it up again until just recently. I would occasionally pick my pen up and attempt to get some momentum going with my writing. I was headstrong on writing a book on the atrocities of the two back-to-back deployments, but as hard as I tried, I was unable to go back, with a pen, or thought. Every time I picked up my pen to go there, I would get lost all over again; it was akin to ripping a scab off of my mental wounds.
I began to believe that my writing days were behind me, and I would often ask myself, “If I’m not a writer then who am I?” I was lost and I remained lost until one day, a few months ago, when I picked up my pen and forced myself to put pen to paper again, but in order to maintain the rhythmic flow of my writing, I had to change its direction. I had to walk away from my boxes filled with research and writing material. I had to close my office door and find another place to write. Most days, I sit in my library and write. There is peace in my library, and there are days that I feel as if my literary friends sitting in place on their shelves rally around me and give me the strength and encouragement to continue penning one word at a time.
It has been a very long time since I’ve done any serious writing and suddenly I have a blog, and I have also started working on some old unfinished manuscripts. I find it impossible not to feel misdirected and lost at times, and because of these feelings, I recently reached out to my friend April who is a brilliant English major. I sent her the following message:
“Are you reading my blogs, April? I need YOUR feedback, but there can be no holding back. I want the good, the bad and the beautiful… uh, I meant the ugly.”
Within moments I had a reply from April:
“They get better and better. Seriously. The only criticisms I might have are some of the grand word choices – not everyone is an English major, although they reflect how you think and are part of your writing. So you think about that for yourself. It wasn’t off-putting, but I, the English major, had to give pause a time or two. The other “criticism” (and I put that in quotes because I’m really having to dig hard to find things to be critical about) is that you need to interject some writings that are as funny as you are.
Now, I know, because I’m wired similarly, that humor is our armor against a cruel world, so showing it to that world pretty much shows them nothing (or so we think) because it’s what they always see (so we think). But, writing about all of the aspects of yourself is important and showing them to your readers is also important. Who is D.B. Moone? She is intelligent (check, you showed them that), she’s insightful (check), she’s real (check), she’s a writer (check), she’s a Navy-girl (check) OK- “she’s a retired Naval Officer”. LOL. She’s one who questions deep things in life. (check).
BUT… isn’t D.B. Moone the one who sweats and toils in the yard, then sits back and appreciates the beauty and the fruits of her labor? Isn’t she a truly loyal and best friend? Doesn’t D.B. Moone hop on her motorcycle and let the wind and bugs hit her in the face? I guess what I’m trying to convey is that the writings are amazing and you’ve got real talent, but what I see is someone trying very hard to convince everyone (or herself?) that she is intelligent. Or maybe that she’s “worthy”. Whatever it is, you’re trying to convince with your writings. Look into yourself. Pick an aspect. It doesn’t have to be deep and philosophical. It can be frivolous, or quaint, or insightful, or rude, or joyful. You’ve got “philosophical” down pat, sister! Show us what else D.B. Moone has in her. Show us all of the things you do that make you whole. Show us, so that we will read it and say, “Hey, I’m like that, too!” or maybe, “Hey, if she’s all those things, I can be, too”. Does that make any sense to you? I hope it helps.”
I’ve lost count of how many times I have read April’s critique of my blog posts. I asked, and she gave me exactly what I asked her to give me – the truth, as she saw it. I also immediately responded to her message:
“Thank you, April! This is what I wanted and needed. No one is going to be as honest and critical with me, as you have been. Therefore, you are now my official writing advisor. Wink! Thank you for your honesty, your compliments, your suggestions, etc.. I’m currently using my blog as a writing tool, a way to loosen up and return to the craft I walked away from so many years ago. I’ve also dusted off some old incomplete manuscripts and I’m going back to work on them (one at a time, of course). This writing is very different than the writing I do on my blog, and some of it speaks to many of the questions you ask about D.B. Moone. I’ll share this work with you when I’ve rid myself of the writer’s cobwebs that have amassed within my head over the last 10 plus years. Thank you, with all my heart. Hugs!”
Yes, as a writer, it’s difficult to ask others to critique our work because our work is a very large piece of who we are, and in doing so we are making ourselves as vulnerable as one can be. Writers are like everyone else who do not want to hear, “Your baby is ugly.” It’s easier to take criticism from those we don’t know than those we do know, for some of us. Perhaps I am an oddball because I am not afraid of the criticism and suggestions that give me something else to consider, something that may make me a better writer. As writers, we don’t write for ourselves, unless we are journaling – we write for our readers, and because of this, I want to know what my readers expect from me. And this is why I welcome criticism of my writing.