Red Ink

Once upon a time, many moons ago, a chipper young college grad set off to teach English in South Korea. The experience that followed was one of the most draining, worldview-shattering years of her life, flipping her values upside down and forcing her to tap into reserves of energy she didn’t know she possessed. And it all started during training. Only it wasn’t really training – it was more like one of those reality shows where you have to impress the judges, and if you don’t, you’re SOL in a foreign country trying to find a way to get yourself home. Oh, and you didn’t know this until the first day.

So that was fun.

But this is about red ink. In Korean culture, we were told during training, you aren’t supposed to write anyone’s name in red ink – it’s bad luck. So with the company’s values being what they were, we were encouraged to write the names of our misbehaving students in red ink on the board to really shake them up. I never did this, because frankly that’s kind of fucked up. And while I occasionally use a red pen for journaling purposes, I stick to blue or green for editing. I told a writing group member once that I find it less threatening. He laughed, but you try handing someone a page covered in red ink and watch the face they make.

For the most part, I like the writing group I meet up with. It’s a little chaotic, like lots of things in my life are, but it makes for good company. I do wish we were a little more organized – group exercises would be fun, and a little more productive than 2+ hours of kvetching about what a pain writing can be. It’s up to members whether or not they’d like to share something with the group. So at the meeting  before last, I decided it was time to make good on one of my goals for the year: have a novel chapter completed by the end of March. I handed out copies of what I’d written thus far and patiently waited for the next meeting to roll around.

I got one copy back.

It was a little disappointing, but hey, it was something. Eventually, my writing buddy posted some comments to the Google Doc. So did one of my podcast collaborators. And finally, I had feedback to work with. It was no less intimidating than red ink. It takes a lot to share such a big part of yourself with other people, knowing that they’ll find you lacking in some way or another. But unless you’re willing to take the risk, how can you get any better? With the feedback I received, I’m on my way to making my goal. One chapter down, the rest of a novel to go. You have to start somewhere. For me, becoming part of my local writing community is a big step in the right direction. Who’s afraid of a little red ink?

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