What’s it like to give your spouse the first look at your rough draft?

One word sums it up – terrifying. Trust me, turning my written work over to my wife was exciting and nervous at the same time. I saw my mom and stepfather share their work together on countless occasions. Naturally, they were one another’s editors. I asked myself, “Why couldn’t I do this with my wife?” Amy’s a solid book reader and I needed an honest opinion. She was, however, a little too close to the bone because she didn’t want to scare me away from the project if she hated it. How could someone, who witnessed me standing in front of U2’s hotel waiting in line for an autograph and have champagne spilled all over her after my first meeting with the band, not take interest? Especially when she is written in to the narrative? I marched on with confidence.

In the summer of 2007, I had fifteen chapters in the bag. I put one of them under Amy’s nose as she was lying on the couch one afternoon knee deep in some book. “Amy, here’s a chapter. Take a gander and tell me what you think.” I said as I zipped up my cycling jersey and headed out for a Saturday afternoon ride in order to escape from the anticipated response. It was a piece of writing I was turning over and not dish of Chicken Vesuvio where you get an immediate validation for you’re hard earn sweat equity in the kitchen. The answer to my work was going to take time.

A few days passed. I never pestered my wife.  One evening, she pulled the fifteen pages of fun out of her bag just after dinner. “ I want to talk to you about your work.” She said. Amy’s reaction was not euphoric but as an avid reader I knew she could give her honest opinion. “I have marked it up. Could you explain why….. Not sure where this is going….. Is this a run on sentence?” My ego was now being checked at the door along with the leash to our dog. My manuscript was covered in scribble. It reminded me of how mom would mark up my term papers in high school. Amy knew my work needed the help that she couldn’t provide. She began speaking of my new endeavor to her friends, one of whom was a new found brunch partner and aspiring writer herself, Lisa. Lisa requested the manuscript and we waited.

Like Amy’s reaction, Lisa’s response was a little more direct. Let’s try really brutally honest. She admitted to giving up on the work after reading and digesting only three pages. I don’t think it was the subject matter of U2 but the way in which I “showed” the story. Amy broke the news to me over dinner about Lisa’s response.

“Eric, Lisa feels your work is in really rough shape.”

“What do you mean, rough?” I replied.

“She thinks you need to polish it. Go to a writer’s conference and meet other writers. Take a class and start reading memoirs. Do a little more leg work about what you’re getting into.”

“Amy, my work is fantastic!” I replied in euphoric in cockiness. Who knew more about U2 between all of us than me? Wait, I have to write the story too. My solid knowledge of the subject, me and my Greek chorus containing U2, wasn’t gaining me any acceptance in the writer’s world.

“Eric, I wanted to say this when I turned it back over to you. Hate to burst your bubble babe but it needs work. Lisa’s right. I think you need to look into a writer’s conference and start reading within your genre.”

I panicked. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I thought my work was great but reality was settling in. Lisa had done all that Amy was talking about and then some. She had spent time at the Iowa’ Summer Writer’s Workshop working on her own book. Her insight was invaluable. I had just been punched in the gut and needed to check my ego into the coat closet. Whether I liked it or not, I was getting the best advice for free.

  1. Natalie Keller Reinert Reply

    That must have been a gutting experience.. even if the feedback had been as positive as you might have hoped or expected.

    I’ll never forget letting my husband read my work. I was horrified. But I thought, if he can’t read it, how can I let the rest of the world read it?

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