John called again.
John usually starts his conversations with four words: "OK, first of all..." That is my cue to pull the phone away from my ear. I still listen to the words, but I keep a healthy distance from the volume.
"Look, I understand you're upset, but the essay about putting down your dog read like you were fishing for sympathy. Like you wanted everybody to read it to have a big "boo-hoo" and think "poor, poor Ed. What a swell guy he is."
I told him that, no, that wasn't quite it. I sometimes write about things from a first person perspective so others will identify with my processes, hoping that they might benefit from my experience, particularly if it's an experience that's commonplace and provocative.
"Yeah, well it didn't ready like that to me. Instead, you could have titled the essay, "Ed Needs a Big Fat Hug. Call for an appointment."
Even when John is breaking my you-know-whats, he's really funny.
He said, "Here's what I'd do. Just write another essay that says, "Look, don't do what I did. If you put down a dog, take days to talk it over with every person you'd effect by your decision. I didn't, and it was short sighted as hell. Secondly, make sure you're putting the needs of others before your own. I missed on that one, and my self-centered behavior is in need of change."
"Lastly, keep any efforts of heroism to yourself. The volunteering in the dog shelter thing? Do it for the dogs, not for your recognition. Lots of people who read that thought, "Oh, what a nice guy." Do you really need that? And, if you do, get it from the dogs you're going to help, not from your readers. You don't have to come off like such a needy jerk."
"Other than that," John said, "I liked the essay. You're a good writer."
Thanks, John. I'll try not to let that go to my head.