To Build Your Story

I am my childhood home. Just like the near-decade it took for my parents to build the brick and mortar one, I’m still nailing on sturdy layers of skin, and collecting enough materials to house all I was designed to be.

I loved the house my parents made. There was a built-in bookshelf in the hallway where volumes of all kinds graced us as we dragged to bed each night, and began each day again. I liked to thumb through the older books, mainly because they came from my dad’s life before me. Before I knew him as Daddy, before he laid his rope on his saddle to begin a family.

One of these books intrigued me, not because of the cover, or the name of the author, but because of the author’s confession on the first page. He was bold G1about his lack of education, his weakness when it came to grammar, and all those things you’d think a writer should master before he showed his work to the world.

I thumbed through the story—it was a novel for grown-ups—and in that season of my youth, I needed a grand collection of illustrations before I would cozy up to a book, but I promised to get back to that book someday. A writer who can’t spell but still published a book must surely have a good story to tell.

I was reminded of that book recently as I scrolled through a few amazon reviews. I picked a few books that I adore, and skimmed through the myriad opinions posted underneath the beautiful covers. What does a review tell about a book? That depends largely on the reviewer and what season-of-life they’re going through as they approach a story, but there is one thing that stands out to me: There are those with critical natures—dissecting a book until it becomes more of a biology experiment than someone’s art—and those who just want a good story.

Like most authors, I approach the release of my own book with lots of excitement, and a good dose of trepidation. My education doesn’t go beyond junior college, I’m still figuring out all rules of grammar (a big thank-you to my editor, Michelle,), and my book is not perfect. But I really just want to tell people a good story.

How long do we wait to put our work out there, anyway? Despite the perfection the world demands, we will never attain that which is beyond the grasp of a fallible human being.

Only God can do that.

Is criticism helpful, and can you use it to shape your art for the better? Then, by all means, grab it and build yourself a little stronger. But if it separates you from you, well…that’s no better than a termite infestation.

When I went back to look for that old book, it was gone. It was probably loaned out, or was stored to make room for newer volumes—but I can still smell the dusty pages, still hear the voice of that author, offering us all he had. And that’s enough to remind me that it’s okay to be imperfect.

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