Teflon, some people. Not me.

I imagine the easygoing among us don’t remember their first time receiving constructive criticism; teflon, some people, or indifferent. Not me. In primary school the report card system was E for excellent, S for satisfactory, and U for unsatisfactory. I swam in a pool of excellence until the day I received an S in handwriting.

By the time my father returned from work I’d been crying so hard for so long I couldn’t put words to the source of my tears. He looked to my sister. “Her handwriting is merely satisfactory. She’s pretty sure her life is over.”

He put a hand over his gut and laughed that way he did, turning my vulnerability to anger. “Stop,” I demanded.

“Stop making a fool of yourself,” he countered, shutting me up. “You need to know what you don’t know. You need learn how to laugh at your own expense. For God’s sake Abby, it’s handwriting.” When I tried to defend my elegant script, he sang a tweaked version of the Rolling Stones I Can’t Get No Satisfaction over my ridiculousness. The chorus went: And I try and I try and I try / But all I get is … satisfaction. For the remainder of his life, he sang it every time I took myself too seriously. Sometimes he’d simply hum the tune as a private reminder that pride is an inhibitor; growth comes from awareness.

He cured me, sort of. By the time I greeted the corporate world I could incorporate feedback, occasionally without having to fake my gratitude. But suggestions still needled me—I always chastised myself for not having gotten it right without aid.

That changed when I started writing. It was the first time I tackled something with no foresight of success. With no pretense I’d earn a single reader, I was hungry for feedback. Starving. Collaborating on I LIKED MY LIFE with my agent and editor has been my favorite part of the publishing process. Feedback is welcome when you’re wholly vulnerable.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.36.01 AMMy copy edits are due January 26th. I’ve included my favorite comment for your entertainment. (And, no, my main character does not defecate outside … why is there a dedicated word for that???)

I plan to spend the next three weeks absorbing every pointer, dismantling every writing tic, and memorizing all my grammar inadequacies. And I try and I try and I try… 

Writing isn’t an endeavor you master; it’s a game of darts where your best hope is, with practice, to consistently land near the center.

A side: My teacher was kind with that S. To this day my husband says birthday cards from me look like they were penned by a thirteen-year-old boy.

Author: Abby Fabiaschi

Abby Fabiaschi is the author of I LIKED MY LIFE (St. Martin's Press, February 2017). She and her family divide their time between Tampa, Florida and Park City, Utah. When not writing or watching the comedy show that is her children, she enjoys reading across genres, skiing, hiking, and yoga. Oh, and travel. Who doesn’t love vacation? Learn more at abbyfabiaschi.com.

12 Replies to “Teflon, some people. Not me.”

  1. Oh Abby, that’s a phrase I never heard of…… so I never would have taken it to mean the way your editor explained. Agree with you , why would thy ever dedicate a meaning like that to the word digger!!! LOL…Your father’s lesson is priceless.

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