The sting of friendship

I started having “meetings” recently with a friend – a mother of a boy who goes to school with my son.  Through casual conversation, we discovered we were both writers and that we both want more from our current writing jobs.  We want freedom – to write what we want and to support our families with our creativity.

We keep these meeting simple.  We have lunch, read some of each other’s work, give constructive feedback, talk about goals and give ourselves “tasks” to complete before the next meeting.

And it’s working out great. 

For me.

Just the idea of meeting with a fellow writer has proven healthy – I’ve felt the stirring of creative juices and the excitement of working toward something.

But today, I asked my friend to read a short story that I intend to submit to a writing contest.  And her reaction to it was one of – well….it was bad.

This story was written with the explicit purpose of putting all of my strongest fears onto the page.  It was painful to write.  And I have avoided editing it because it’s painful to read.  And I must not have explained just how sinister the piece is, because she read it.  And she was mortified.

I don’t want to give too much away (I hope someday someone will publish it and give me a pretty pretty check), but it’s a story about the deepest, darkest fear a mother can fathom – of someone murdering her children.  (The first draft of this post said “hurting” instead of “murdering,” because it was easier to write – but this is a full disclosure.  So there you go.) 

After my friend read my story, she pushed the laptop away from her on the table, looked at me in disgust, and silently reached into the pack-n-play next to her and pulled her baby girl to her chest.

I felt terrible.

This is not the reason I started writing.  I don’t want to place images like that in someone’s mind.  I don’t want to make people cry.

Yes, writing a story is about creating an emotion.

But this is exactly why I typically stick to humor – ’cause I want to create GOOD emotion when people read my work.

I couldn’t stop thinking about that look in her eyes as I walked home.  And now I’m faced with a dilemma – is the story worthy of admission?  Or is it too sadistic?  Is there any merit to it?  Any substance other than the pain? 

Is the sheer fact that a story provokes emotion enough to deem it worthy of reading?

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