Last weekend my husband and I packed up our apartment in Minneapolis and moved to our new place just outside of Washington, D.C.
Oh, did I say we packed up? That’s not quite right. Paul’s job paid for moving expenses, which included professional packers (fancy!). We quite literally did not know what to do with ourselves. For days before the move, I kept asking, “but do they pack everything?” (The answer is yes, they pack everything, from fragile artwork to a toilet plunger to a half-used box of pancake mix. ) And, in fact, we were discouraged from packing anything ourselves. If we packed it and it broke, too bad. If they packed it and it broke, we would get some sort of compensation.
“They said it would only take a few hours,” Paul said. “I don’t understand how that’s possible. It takes us days to pack.”
“They’re professionals,” I said.
“Do you think it’s because they don’t have any emotional attachment to the stuff? Like, they can just see it for what it is and move on?”
Still, we felt like we should be doing something to prepare. It was weird.
It got even weirder when the packers — tattooed and drinking Mountain Dew — arrived. “Divide and conquer,” the big one said. He took the kitchen while the guy with the toothy smile took the living room and the scrawny new kid took the bedroom.
Paul and I hovered at the edge of the living room, watching. It wasn’t like they were doing anything drastically different from what we would have done. (Well, except that we would have been wrapping our fragile items in blankets and socks instead of butcher paper.)
Basically, they were putting stuff into boxes. But they were doing it faster and better than we would have ourselves.
There are all sorts of services like this where strangers help you with immensely personal tasks, like organizing your closet or sorting out your finances. Or, giving you feedback on your writing.
When you get feedback on your writing, it’s not always because you think the people giving feedback are much better writers than you (although that doesn’t hurt). It’s because you know they have an emotional distance from your work that you’ll never be able to get. They can look at your story with a cool eye and see it for what it is. They can help you figure out how to fit the elements together.
Once you get feedback, you then have to sort through all the comments, just like Paul and I will have to sort through all of the boxes once they arrive (and dear goodness, I hope that’s soon — I’m sitting on the floor to write this blog and my butt is really hurting.) You will have to unpack the comments and suggestions and decide how to incorporate them into your revision. Often, the feedback will include things you probably would have noticed or commented upon in other people’s work, but you didn’t see it in your own work (or couldn’t admit that it needed to be changed). You’ll need to put your finger on the backspace button and kill some darlings.
It can be hard to let someone else read and comment on your creative work. Just like it was hard for Paul and I to stand there and watch three tattooed dudes pack our personal items. But they did a good job. And, chances are, you’ll be happy (in the long run) with feedback you get on your writing. It’s important to receive honest impressions and suggestions from people who are not as emotionally invested in the work as you are.
And hey, if you’re looking for some feedback and revision help on anything from a short story to a novel or memoir-in-progress, I am now available for manuscript consultations and editing. For more information, click here. And wish me luck in my new home of Silver Spring, Maryland.