“What is it?”

That’s what my 23-year-old son asked as he skeptically and gingerly lifted one of his Christmas presents out of its gaily wrapped box.

Several answers swirled through my head:

  • “It’s your mother’s effort at channeling her inner hippie.”
  • “It’s the hottest thing one could have on their wall in the 60s and 70s.”
  • “It’s the latest in décor – a vintage-looking item.”
  • “It’s the result of your mother losing electricity for four days during Hurricane Matthew and seeking not to go crazy from boredom.”

But instead, I said: “It’s a wall hanging.”

He hesitated. Looked at me. Looked back at the object…which he now held in his hand, arm extended, the way one would hold and study a dead rodent while grasping it by the tippy end of its tail.

I sighed. “Notice it’s gray and brown and blue, like your furniture.”

“Yeah….thanks, Mom,” was his forced enthusiastic response.

I slumped back in my seat, defeated.

Did he not recognize the hours of love and thought put into it? Or the manner in which I made it to match his apartment? Or the creative way I tackled the no-electricity time? Or that it was environmentally friendly, made from 100% wool, wood beads, specialty paints, and a small (and awesome) branch from my Georgia woodlands?

No, he did not.

All he (understandably) noticed were the practical aspects: What purpose did it serve and what was he supposed to do with it?

And, novelist that I am, this made me think of the writer’s situation. We put hours of passion and thought and turmoil and creativity and revision and (sometimes) blood-sweat-and tears into our work and offer it to the masses just to, sometimes, receive a one-star rating and a cold disheartening comment such as, “Don’t waste your time on it.”

I guess a book can only ever be a reflection of the end result, and (rarely) the exciting, passion-filled journey the author took to make it in the first place.

Novelist and Pulitzer prize winner John Updike was right when he wrote that “Writing criticism is to writing fiction and poetry as hugging the shore is to sailing in the open sea.” Point is: It sometimes makes no sense at all.

And, whether wall hanging or novel, I wouldn’t have traded the joy of the creation for anything.

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