You wait, holding your breath. You wait, telling yourself to accept with an open heart. You wait hoping. You wait afraid.

When a friend you love and respect delivers the verdict about what he/she thinks about the book you’ve spent your soul writing, your creative life flashes before your eyes. The greater the love for the commenter, the greater the respect, the deeper the emotional jeopardy is. And if a considerable amount of time has passed between the read and the comment, the tougher the anticipation becomes.

Waiting for a biopsy result isn’t a whole lot tougher, trust me.

Balance-in-the-waiting is hard to come by. Perspective is out the window. If your friend hates what you’ve done, what then? The friendship won’t be abandoned…but will it change? Will your feelings remain the same if the answer to “will you respect me in the morning?” is no?

If your friend likes—or even loves—what you’ve done, it’s a whole different ballgame. Life is sunshine. One sincere, substantial, favorable assessment, and we look up the steep and impossible cliff face of the work with a renewed will to scale the thing to the top. We find our joy again.

This, a realization from Salon last night. A lesson learned in every talk and every email exchanged with the folks I so dearly love: We are the classrooms of ourselves. Our very smart, very creative friends and us, we school one another. We learn from one another. We grow one another. We borrow and we steal from one another, and we do it celebrating.

In these difficult, anticipatory moments we find buried treasure. From the reactions to the work come the things that improve it; that make us want to do more and do it better.

That the comments of friends could carry such profound emotional weight? Who’dathunkit?