My Harshest Critic


First of all, let me make this clear: I love my mother.  She raised me well, pushed me in my education, and supported me through those dark, teenage years despite the nasty things I may have said to her at the time.  I would not be the man I am today if not for my mother.  But on this one thing, on my writing, we’ve never quite seen eye to eye.

For a long time, I just assumed her tastes didn’t match mine.  I watched Star Trek and Babylon 5.  She watched operas on PBS.  I read Dune.  She read The Da Vinci Code.  I played video games like Star Fox and Final Fantasy.  She played Solitaire.  Why should I expect her to show any interest in science fiction stories, even the ones I wrote?

I particularly remember one incident, while she drove me home from a friend’s house, when she told me I was too young to know anything about the real world, and it showed in my writing.  Of course this was true.  I was fifteen.  Still, it stung to hear her say it.  But I kept showing her my stories anyway, well into adulthood, despite all her negative comments.

She sometimes said she was only giving me her honest opinion, that she didn’t think I needed a sugar coated version of the truth.  Unfortunately for me, the truth (according to her) was that my writing sucked.  I wrote several short stories and screenplays, all science fiction.  She hated them.  I wrote a book about robots, a book about time travel, and a book about parallel universes.  She hated them too.  Eventually I learned to laugh her criticism off.  I had to or I wouldn’t be able to keep writing.

Then I wrote a short story called “The Tomorrow News Network” (which I later re-titled “The Medusa Effect”).  It introduced Talie Tappler and Mr. Cognis, a pair of time traveling journalists who arrive at newsworthy disasters before they happen.  My mom read it.  Grudgingly, she admitted she liked it and asked when I’d write the next one.

Let me emphasize this point.  She not only said she liked it; she wanted to know when I’d write more.  A few weeks later, she started hassling me about when she could see the next “Talie story.”  You cannot imagine the shock I felt!  I knew “Tomorrow News Network” was a few steps above anything I’d written before, but still… my mom liked it!

For most writers, having your mother’s endorsement is next to meaningless.  She’s your mother.  She’s supposed to love your writing, no matter how terrible it might be.  But for me, being able to say, “My Mom likes my writing,” is a huge accomplishment.  And it occurs to me now as I finish this post that my Mom was right all along.  She gave me her honest opinion, no matter how much I didn’t want to hear it, and maybe that pushed me to try harder and become a better writer.  At the very least, her unprecedented enthusiasm helped keep me going through the ten (soon to be eleven) subsequent Tomorrow News Network stories.

* * *

Today’s post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh.  Click here to see a full list of participating blogs.

10 thoughts on “My Harshest Critic

  1. Oh…I wasn’t sure if this was still an active blog…there are never any follow up comments.

    Yes, Moms can be our toughest critics. Mine is a pure treasure, but can find a flaw in anything, which I guess is why I’m so detail-oriented. One knows when a mother’s support is biased love and acceptance, and when she just plain likes something. Good that your mom is a loving mom and a true fan.

    • Well surprise! This blog is still going, though I admit these last few months have been a bit hectic, and I’ve been slower to respond to comments than I’d like to be. For that, I’m sorry.

      It sounds like your mom and mine would get along well. Mine certainly knows how to pick out flaws, just like yours. We have to remember they’re doing it for the right reasons.

      Thank you so much for visiting!

      • I thoroughly understand hectic! And sorry if I was a bitch. I am a bitch. LOL. But seriously…I enjoy your blog and its concept. I’m not an overly big sci-fi fan, but enjoy the stuff that is well-written…Bradbury, Heinlein, and a few others.

        I used to hate every flaw pointed out, but it really had its positives – I’ve got the same critical eye and attention to detail that my mom has.

        Good to meet you!

  2. I had a mother like that. Can’t raise seven kids and expect “sensitivity”. At age fifteen, parents assume we’re still in the formative years and will listen to so called, “sage advice”. Good thing you couldn’t be enticed off the path. As they say down-under, good on ya.

  3. As writers and consumers of stories we all have different tastes. It’s frustrating when the kind of stories we want to write don’t overlap with the stories the people we love enjoy.

    On the other hand, it’s easier to tell when something is strong enough to appeal outside it’s niche!

  4. My mother always tells me how great I write but thinks I should short stories not novels – alas, she may be right as I just got some feedback from an agent that wants me to do revision and break characters into separate stories … EGADS!

    • For a long time, I didn’t think I was made for writing short stories either. This series is a dramatic departure for me, one that has turned out pretty well I think.

      Here’s hoping your experiments with short stories turn out well too!

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