Compliments help me refocus my goals

Friday, February 18, 2022

By Marie Mischel

Intermountain Catholic

My writer’s ego has been feeling a little bruised lately.

It’s unusual; a career in journalism gave me tough skin, at least as far as my writing goes. I have received criticism since my days on the college newspaper, some justified and some not.

It is generally believed that if a journalist cannot ignore such calls, emails, Facebook posts or tweets, he is in the wrong profession. In journalism, criticisms are more frequent than compliments. And I admit that some of the criticism I received was deserved. Even though I try to avoid it, I blundered, and people are right to call me on it.

This is all a long way of saying that I know my writer’s pride shouldn’t be hurt, but it is, for two reasons. First it’s contest time, that is, I’ve taken a look at the past year’s work to choose what to submit to the Better Newspaper contests sponsored by the two professional organizations to which we belong.

Scrolling through the 47 issues that represent my work over the past 12 months, I found absolutely nothing of what I had written that was worth submitting to a contest. It’s not that I think my work was bad, it’s just that nothing would stand out from the competition. I found contest entries for the rest of the staff, but none for me.

Then, as if glancing critically at my work of the past year wasn’t demoralizing enough, I received a rejection from a major literary magazine to which I had submitted an essay. Adding insult to injury, the rejection came three days after the essay was submitted, despite the fact that their turnaround time is usually months. I can only conclude that not only was my essay not meeting their needs at the present time, as they so kindly put it, but it was so inappropriate that it was not worth more than a quick read .

When I complained about the rejection to a writer friend, she told me what I would have told her if our situations had been reversed: it was not a reflection on the quality of my work and that the best markets receive thousands more essays than they can publish. This is all true, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

What made me feel better was my sister, to whom I sent an article about the gospel story of Jesus healing the bleeding woman. She called the piece empowering. “You can’t ignore it,” were her exact words, adding that she’s amazed at how good I am with words.

He’s the same brother who called me “weird” when we were growing up, so I take his recent compliments as praise.

Then yesterday a reader called in with a compliment on one of my recent columns and provided details about why he was expressing the faith we share.

Thinking about all of this reminded me why I write about faith. My goal as editor of this journal is not to win contests, but rather to let people know what is happening in their Church, both locally and globally. I write this column as a personal expression of my faith in hopes that it can touch people in some way. My creative writings, like the article I sent to the national magazine and the one I sent to my sister, are ways for me to explain the ways in which faith is relevant. More than any award, more than acceptance by a national publication, compliments tell me that somehow I am succeeding as an evangelist.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can throw a stone across the waters to create many ripples,” said Mother Theresa; way to throw such a stone is to write and then pray my words create ripples when read.

Marie Mischel is editor-in-chief of Intermountain Catholic. Contact her at [email protected]

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