Sorry My PTSD Isn’t Pleasant Enough for You

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My first creative writing class.  We have submitted single pieces for small group workshop but it is time for full class workshop.  6 to 8 pages of writing.  I mull it over and finally decide to submit some of the writing I have been working on about PTSD. About my experiences as a sexual abuse survivor.  I know it is a risk.  Most of my classmates are 18 to 22. The material workshopped so far has mostly been fiction but poetry and prose are my primary language. I do not sugar coat my life.  Even the pieces told from third person are intense.  Visceral.  This is deliberate—PTSD is experienced in the body, not just the mind.  I want the reader to understand this.  To experience this.  My story telling is not linear.  PTSD is not linear.  Healing is not linear.  It feels like a sine wave to me.  I know it will be challenging for my classmates .  I decide to be brave.  I decide to be reckless.  I submit these pieces of my soul. Then I wait anxiously for the written feedback we will receive before class then the more unnerving experience of the in-class workshop where I am only allowed to be the fly on the wall, the elephant in the middle of the room, silent. 

Much of the written feedback from my classmates is technical.  “Show don’t tell.”  Disagreement erupts about my choices of line breaks—the class is split on whether they are too choppy or not choppy enough.  One of classmates feels like my titles are misleading.  I roll my eyes a little at this one.  “The Name They Call Her” really is about first being called bitch at 12, at 16 because I tried to claim my body for myself.  Child Welfare was the short name of the class I was sitting in. Another suggests economy of words—probably the most helpful feedback I receive the whole semester and try to put into practice.  Several thank me for tackling such difficult terrain and talk about how the pieces made them feel.  This is gratifying, eases some of my anxiety.

The feedback that has stood out for throughout the months is “A suggestion for this piece is to vary the emotional experiences of the characters. Allow them to sometimes feel happy and sometimes sad, sometimes angry and sometimes at peace. The reader will be pulled into the piece more if the subjects of the stories are multi-dimensional.”  I am sure this feedback is well intended.  Perhaps even helpful if I had more emotional distance from the material.

But all I can hear ringing in my ears is “I would like you and your poems better if you smiled more.”

 

12 thoughts on “Sorry My PTSD Isn’t Pleasant Enough for You

  1. I always have a default setting with poetry. I apply the same truth to anyone else’s poetry that i do to my own. That a piece of them exists in these words. I approach any criticism from the standpoint of talking about a person. So the same as I would not say “I don’t like the color of your eyes or the shape of your nose” I refrain from making comments about the piece that might seem similar. You can be critical of a poem and not be callous…but it is a tricky task to do so. I always assume that the poet has the emotions and feelings expressed in the piece…because they came from inside them. I’ve met many poets who say, “oh no…Im fine…the subject of the poem feels that way, not I” something inside me always wants to say, “bullshit, you felt that…its a part of you, stand behind it.”

    I understand your feeling behind the criticism and I know it was part of the class. I wish they had left out the comments about the “characters” If a poem involves a character it usually is the poet within that persona. Or at least invokes the idea that the poet is tied to that character some way.

    Thank you for sharing this, Christine. You ARE brave.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Eric. It IS tricky business to critique someone else’s poetry or prose. I know that my own poetry and prose is literally the voice of my soul. Even when my writing is “fictional” I cannot write what I am not capable of feeling. I am much more comfortable reading someone else’s poetry from a critical perspective when I know them well and they tell me what kind of feedback they are looking for. I have a couple of WordPress friends who are my go-to’s when I am unsure about publishing a piece. We don’t acknowledge often how much of ourselves goes into each piece and how we are putting our ego as a writer and our deepest selves out there for judgement when we publish.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Extraordinarily brave! I always assume a part of someone is in everything to they write. And I so relate to the demands to smile. I don’t think anyone realizes how invalidating that statement is.
    You are so gutsy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish I were in this class with you, Christine, just so I could stand with you. You’re writing is real. It’s your truth. To insert emotions purely for range would be to lie. I admire you. And I pity these classmates of yours, for they are without depth. In my opinion. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your work is powerful. I can’t imagine what you endured. I say shout it out in any form you can. The best writing is honest and raw. The form is secondary to the message, in my opinion. Intention is a powerful tool. Don’t let anyone tell you to write something the way they would. Yes, some writers are experienced and have good advice. It’s hard to find someone to trust with your soul. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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