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The Next Shakespeare (Almost)

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Two stars. Out of five. By today's standards, that is a forty percent. F. As in failure. It screamed "Don't even bother getting out of bed in the morning, you bum. You might as well put the paper bag over your head now, and save us all the trouble."

I blinked at the computer screen, rereading my words. Each one sounded as it should--after all, I spent an hour crafting them, twisting them around and rearranging them until my eyes burned with effort. Three lines, twenty two words, all personal and from the heart. I was being profound, existential, and every other Thesaurus.com synonym for “deep”. I was the very essence of Virginia Woolf and those other writer types I read about in my history textbook. I knew, or at least, thought I knew, the recipe for a perfect poem: two parts tragedy, one part romance, and a bit of angst thrown in for good measure. It may have been a tad bit overdone or slightly unoriginal, but I had slaved away on that poem, and I expected the world to love it just as much as I did.

Instead, they hated it. Flunked it, actually. If the poem was my child, then they had basically sat it down in the corner and forced it to wear the dunce cap of shame. Poor, little poem. It looks like you did have a face that only your mother could love.

Looking at that two star rating, I felt my stomach plunge. How could someone not love this three-lined window to the soul? With my words, I had basically crafted a work rivaling that of Shakespeare and Wordsworth. Rostand would have applauded me for my wit; Solzhenitsyn for my loyalty to the truth. In all honesty, I had given the answer for the meaning of life. My words were the literary equivalent of curing cancer...weren't they?

My ego fizzled. Instead of feeling insulted, I felt stupid. How could I not have noticed how bland my poem was? Such lifeless words and odd structure! Practically every teenage cliché was rolled up into that haiku. No wonder the world hated it. It was just another piece of fluff--no depth to it whatsoever. God, my fifth grade writing teacher would be rolling over in her grave. You know, if she were dead. Where were my juicy words, colorful vocabulary, and every other elementary requirement? Oh, jeez, I had failed her. I was never going to amount to anything. I should just go ahead and reserve my cardboard box by the side of the road. Maybe they would hire horrendous poets for odd jobs around town. If it got bad enough, I'd have to burn the poems for warmth, or as a last resort, eat them. I can see the headlines now "CRAZED WRITER EATS HER WORDS--LITERALLY".

No, I told myself. It was just one review. One measly, insignificant review. Perhaps it had some truth to it. (At this thought, I carefully reread the poem and decided that while it was decent, it could stand to be improved.) I would not die of shame or embarrassment. The world would not shun me for my less than original topic. No one was out to get me--at least to my knowledge. It was just a review. But I wasn't just a writer. I was a writer determined to keep going.

So I started writing this. And while it's nowhere near perfect (and there will probably be plenty of people who think of this as overdone or unoriginal), I'm proud of it. I'm proud because I was honest with myself as I writer. I let the world know that it hurt to be rejected, but that I wasn't going to let that stop me. And perhaps, I overreacted a little--but I've already promised myself to resist the urge to vote five stars for myself every day in order to boost my ratings. Instead, I'm laughing at myself, and I'm moving on.



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