It was only when I was talking to Alizah, the fiction editor over on Sasson, that the penny dropped.
We were discussing the new writers’ workshop that BH is almost ready, which is basically an online interface that will enable participants to upload their work, and have other writers critique it - in a careful, helpful way - to help the author polish their piece.
Alizah was explaining that a good critique always starts by praising the good in the piece, then includes some points where things could be improved, then ends with more praise of the good in the piece.
And that’s when the penny dropped about why I’ve been feeling pretty so low about continuing to write for Emunaroma, and so bizarrely upset about life, and that I should just give up now and go work in Shufersal, or something.
The story begins last year, when my husband and I offered our services - for free - to translate a really awesome Breslov book that we wanted to help get out to the English-speaking public.
Neither of us were paid for the work we did, and both of us worked really hard to get it ready, to the best of our collective abilities. It was literally a week away from being sent to print when in swooped ‘the sponsor’.
The sponsor had also read the book in the original Hebrew, and also loved it, and also wanted to do whatever he could to get the book out there to the wider public. There was just one problem with this plan: he wanted the book to be professionally edited by someone who could make everything read like something from Artscroll and Feldheim.
Because this is what the English speaking frum book reading public wants! More suave, wordy stuff that loses the heart and soul of what’s really being said and is technically a million percent accurate - but so bland and lifeless you just want to dig some hole for it already, and say kaddish.
I had huge misgivings. I did a lot of hitbodedut about it. Maybe, this was just my ego? (Very likely…) Maybe, this was just sour grapes that someone was being paid a lot of money to improve on something I’d poured my heart and soul into for free? (Could be…)
At the end of the day, I really want the book out there, and I really want it to sell well. The person who wrote it richly deserves that, they really do. So I made an agreement with the middleman that the ‘professional’ can and should look at it, and could and should tweak it, but that me and my husband would have the last word on the changes, to make sure the essential flavor wouldn’t be lost in translation.
What can I tell you?
Clearly no-one told the sponsor or the other editor.
The whole process was extremely challenging from day one, as I was increasingly given the impression by both these individuals that they were ‘rescuing’ the book from my extremely poor writing and editing.
I am the first to admit that grammar and punctuation are not my forte, and I always get my own books edited to catch the typos and mistakes, and I’m very happy to hear suggestions on how the work can be tightened up and improved.
But from the first second, the editor that was brought in to ‘save’ the book was out to impress on me that he was the professional here, he knew better than me how the book should read and sound (despite having zero Breslov tendencies and even being mildly ‘anti’ a lot of the deeper kabbalistic ideas being expressed in the book) - and that me and my opinions were basically surplus to requirements.
Dear reader, I did so much hitbodedut about what was going on, and how I was feeling about it all, because I know I have an ego, and I know that having two writers working on one project is always tricky.
But until Alizah’s comment, I hadn’t realized just how poisonous and toxic working with this person really was for me, and just how problematic that man’s approach to life - and to me! - actually is.
He didn't say one nice word to me the whole time.
The last two weeks, I have been inexplicably moody, miserable and on a trigger-hair with my husband and kids. I have been feeling like my writing absolutely sucks. I have been feeling so lowly and pointless - which is all helpful, and from God, I know - but because I didn’t know where all this stuff was coming from, I literally started to think I was going a bit mad.
Shabbat, I did a six hour prayer-a-thon to try to get the cloud to lift a bit, and to figure out what was going on and why I’d run out of energy, hope, and the will to live.
I didn’t realize it then, but now I can see 100% what just happened:
I got tangled up with someone who was out to prove their own ‘brilliance’ at my expense; who went over my head to the sponsor every single time we had a disagreement where right was on my side; who continually and consistently trashed and belittled all the hard work and effort me and my husband had put into the book; and who clearly has a lot of work to do on their bad middot.
The whole thing just reminded me again of how awful these types of people really are for the mental and physical health of those around them.
It’s been so long so I got blind-sided by a full-on narcissist that I’d almost forgotten how they suck out all your will to live and leave you so moody and lost in the world because interacting with them is just one big competition to prove to you how terrible you are, and how great they are.
And in the meantime, now that the penny has dropped, I am feeling so much happier and healthier again.
So if you’re having a bizarre chronic health issue, or some bizarre mood fluctuations and a feeling like life is not worth living, take it back to God and ask Him to show you which poisonous individuals in your environment may by sparking off the problem.
Because for sure, you’ll find them.