I have a secret. My tutor thinks I'm a better writer than I actually am.
This used to concern me a lot. I'd come home after workshop and tell Phil, "Julia says I skipped over an important scene. But she was sure I had a reason."
"Did you have a reason?" Phil would ask.
"Yeah," I'd say. "I'm lazy."
I worried Julia thought too highly of me and might not criticize my work.
I needn't have worried. Actually, the opposite is true. Julia is perhaps the harshest critic I've ever encountered. As she's gotten to know me better, she's become more honest, too.
"I expected more..."
"It's good, but I think you should rewrite it, make it better."
At one meeting, I remember her pulling off her reading glasses, looking at me, and saying, "Anne..." in a long, drawn-out sigh.
So I'd rewrite the passage in question. And rewrite it again, always knowing that Julia expected more.
After Julia read my draft this summer, I made a to-do list out of all of her suggestions. Anything I didn't know how to do or didn't understand I threw in a second list entitled "Ask Julia."
But a funny thing has happened in the past month. As I've worked through my to-do list, completing items, adding new ones, I've answered many of my "Ask Julia" questions. I've known what she'd say, I could imagine her pulling off her reading glasses, giving me that look. So I've pushed myself harder.
I'm meeting with Julia tomorrow. I'm expecting more criticism, more pushing. And I still have plenty of questions. But I'm also really proud of what I have to show her. I've met many of her challenges in the last draft. Things I thought I couldn't do, I've done. And in struggling to meet her expectations, I've far exceeded my own.
I've been thinking a lot lately about what will happen when the program is over at the end of September, fantasizing about snagging an agent, maybe making a career out of this. And it's occurred to me that one thing I definitely want is an agent like Julia who believes I'm a better writer than I actually am.