I’ve delayed long enough in getting this post out. I’ve intended for well over a month to write a follow up to my brief, impassioned reaction to the audio publication of one of my stories recently.
Roughly a week after it aired, I was just recuperating from an acute spasm of depression that came over me when I first listened to it. When I say I listened to it, I don’t mean to say that I sat down and listened to the entire hour continuously. I think it took me a couple days to get all the way through because I kept stopping, overwhelmed by emotion.
In my reaction post, I emphasized my hard critique for the reader’s approach to the story. On the outset, I saw his reading as being one of my primary issues with the broadcast. In truth, I hated more than the reading; I hated everything about the story. I hated the impulse that drove me to submit the piece in the first place. I hated iTunes for having the story burned into its cache of podcasts. I hated the story for making itself known to me, and I hated foolish, foolish me for putting breath upon the story, rendering it visible to the masses.
A short while after the post went up, my blog received a comment from “the reader.” (That would be the gentleman who acted out and recorded the piece.) ouch! For me, there is nothing quite so disconcerting as being confronted my someone whom I’ve failed to confront myself. (I’m so weak; I know. Don’t lecture me – I’m already in therapy.) To make matters worse, his comment popped up for approval on my phone just as I was walking into a major presentation about selling carpet protector, so as I’m blathering on about “acid dye resistors” and “customer retention”, my mind is feverishly running circles, and my stomach is churning morning coffee in a most violent way, doing its best to remind me of what an ASS I am. This event eventually lead me to gag my smartphone.
The happy ending is this – the reader, Lance Shows, was willing to be the “bigger man”, and thankfully, he did reach out to me. What resulted was an illuminating e-mail exchange that worked as a sweet balm for the wounds inflicted upon me by that confounded story. I think the easiest thing is to recount my initial e-mail response to Lance.
So much to say; I struggle with where to start.
Well, here’s as good a place as any – I am an ass. The first step toward recovery is admission. Now, there’s a stark difference between feeling like an ass and actually being one. In my case, both apply.
You’re quite right when you say that I’m not objective about this. I don’t know how possible it is for any writer to listen to a reading of his work with pure objectivity, but I know I was impacted by the intensely personal nature of this piece. Without wandering too far down an odd path, I became clinically depressed this past year. “Waking Lives” was something I wrote to help process something. I guess I’m still not sure what, exactly. The condition became severe enough to prompt me to start taking anti-depressants and see a therapist. The past couple months have improved for me, but after the story aired, I spiraled for several days. My gut reaction was to decide that I disliked everything about the whole Smoke and Mirrors process. I regretted ever submitting the piece. As much as it ignited me during its conception and composition, the story revolted me now that it was “out there.” I suppose James Earl Jones could have read the piece, and I still would have been overwhelmed with regret.
It wasn’t until nearly a week later that I gained perspective enough over my emotions to feel gracious toward you for all the time, care, and attention you gave my story. The fact is, you were brave enough to take on a very difficult reading. I think I mentioned this when we spoke – that I wondered whether anyone would ever choose to read it because of the challenges with the children speaking and the music and the general weirdness of it. Here you were courageous enough to take the challenge, and rather than thank you, I whine and pout like a child. I’m sorry. Despite my feelings that you did overwork it in many places, it was more than apparent that you took tremendous care with the piece. Here’s a funny thing – my mom listened to your reading, and she really liked it.
“I think he did a great job, Luke!” she said.
“You don’t think he was sorta over-the-top?” I said.
“Luke! What did you expect? That whole story is over-the-top!”
She makes an excellent point.
As a matter of fact, several people have let me know recently that they enjoyed your take on the story. (Including my therapist).
I guess the only thing left to say is that I somehow managed to forget one of the oldest writers’ adages – that being, once a piece is submitted to publishing, it stops being YOUR story. It becomes everybody else’s. You breathed this story. I truly thank you.*