It Doesn't Matter

I got the privilege of being the guest speaker in a third grade class the other day. They had just read “Author: A True Story” by Helen Lester, which I really enjoy. She’s a children’s author and it’s an inspiring and sweet story book whether you’re a writer or not. During the Q&A part of my presentation, kids this age usually ask a variation on a few questions, like how hard writing is or how long it takes to write a book. I was amazed at the insightful questions this class asked, though. The teacher had asked them to name a character trait that an author might need to have. They came up with “brave.” So the question was, with all the criticism that can come along with writing, how can a writer be brave?

I wasn’t prepared for that question. I mean, how should I know? I’m not brave. I love hanging out with kids, but my nerves start acting up days before a presentation. Yes, for a presentation in front of third graders. My hands shake, I need a water bottle, and somehow God hides that and makes the words come out. But amazingly, I answered that question instantly with the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given about that: It doesn’t matter.

The person who gave me this advice is someone who knows me but has absolutely no obligation to pump me up or even check in about my writing. That’s important to know because it tells you just how genuine her advice is. She does bother to check in with me, though. Not long after my first one-star review, I gave her the “Oh, you know, everything’s fine” answer at first, but then she asked how it was really going. “It’s hard,” I told her. “Yeah,” she agreed. To which I answered, “No, you don’t understand what it’s like—” But she didn’t let me finish. She cut in with a firm, very matter of fact, “It doesn’t matter.” I started again, “But I can’t—” She dismissed those words with, “It. Doesn’t. Matter.” And they were gone, which made me stop and think, really think. After a few moments, I asked, “It doesn’t?” She responded, “You told me yourself that the stories in your head have to get out and be shared.” She was right. I had forgotten that, but I did. And they do.

So, that’s what I told the kids. I told them about the shame I felt, especially right after that review was posted, which was something I never thought I’d talk about anywhere. I told them that people are going to have opinions on just about anything you do, whether it’s writing or something else, and we can sure learn from criticism. The truth is, there’s no reason to feel shame as long as you’ve tried your hardest. In the end, I didn’t tell them how to be brave because I really don’t know how to do that. Instead I told them (and myself, and maybe even you, too) that we all have gifts that are meant to be used. We have to be true to those gifts because even if they touch just one person, well, that’s what does matter.
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Published on March 02, 2018 12:57
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message 1: by Beverly (new)

Beverly Wofford Spot on Elaine!
That same person has often given me very good advice. She is a wise and wonderful lady.

message 2: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Pinter Beverly wrote: "Spot on Elaine!
That same person has often given me very good advice. She is a wise and wonderful lady."

Thank you, Beverly! I feel very blessed to have someone in my life to ground me like that.

message 3: by Hessschmitt (new)

Hessschmitt My dear, sweet Elaine, BRAVO!!! I am reminded again how thoughtful, insightful, kind, and yes, BRAVE, you are. I will surely try and keep up with this better after this school year! And how proud I am that you were sharing yourself with the third graders. I would definitely be bugging you for the same if you were a couple of thousand or so miles eastward!! Love, me.

message 4: by Hessschmitt (new)

Hessschmitt PS: My kids (third graders) are struggling to finish a realistic fiction piece this past month, and I think I will read them your post for inspiration. Yeah! Thank you again!

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