A few weeks ago, I got a hard-to-take evaluation. It was an art journaling course, and the evaluation said, “Quinn is fake. She is not authentic, and I will never take a class from her again.” Hard to read. But every evaluation is important to me.
I separate evals (as I do opinions of me) into ones I recognize and ones that are not about me. Often, in classes, a lot of insecurity, competition and fear comes up for participants. Feelings of not understanding fast enough or perfectly enough. The easiest thing to say to ourselves is, “the instructor is not giving me what I need.” And sometimes that’s true. And sometimes the instructor is just the mirror for what the participants doesn’t like about herself and recognizes in the instructor.
How much of this evaluation is mine to own? How much to I need to adjust to make the class better for everyone?
A contributing factor: the person who wrote the evaluation reads my blog. And that is always a danger. Blog readers create visions of what the writer is like. It is a vision they love (occasionally one they love to hate, but then they don’t take the course) and one they think is the “real” blogger.
Just like the movie is never as good as the book, a class is not as good as the blog. Your imagination reading a book is much bigger than the reality the director can conjure from actors and special effects. So I am less than what people imagine. I can’t possibly be the calm, loving, generous person I try to embody when I write. At least not for more than 15 minutes at a time.
Here is what is true: I do not write about disagreements I have with friends or family, unless I talk about my own behavior and what I learned. When I do write about others (as I am writing about a class participant) no identifying details are included. But that does not mean I do not squabble with my spouse or disagree with my friends or disappoint my clients. Indeed, I do. But you won’t find drama details on my blog.
When I show a piece of art in progress, or a mess I made while in the studio, you can assume the rest of my life follows suit. I learn from making mistakes and fixing them.
There is a huge difference between being authentic and sharing every problem in my life. The difference is one of discretion and discernment–what I call emotional editing. The lessons show up, told in a way that makes the point approachable. There are blogs that build readership on drama, but this isn’t one of them.
When you see me in class, you get who I am–and that’s not going to be the blogger you imagined. You will see imperfection and mis-speaking. But you will get the absolute best I can be that day, speaking to you wherever you happen to be on that day. And if we can honor the creative force in each of us, we will both have a rich experience.
Come join me in Minneapolis on May 18 and 19 for Monsoon Papers and some explorations of your creative path in deep writing and mixed media. And then, come join me at the Madeline Island School of the Arts in July (22-26) for a week of deep writing and creative awakening.
—Quinn McDonald thinks the difference between authentic and pleasing everyone is that “authentic” is being me, and pleasing everyone is impossible.