|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
IS THERE ANY SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH HONESTY?
Can You Spell Ostracized?
Considering I've spent a good amount of time the last several days suggesting that less experienced writers should actively seek out critique groups, workshops, and open mic's, I thought it might be a good idea to toss out a caveat. If you're really going to invest time, effort, and emotional currency in your writing then you need to be ready for the inevitable. Somewhere along your path you'll push one of your babies out there into the world and, like it or not, another writer or an editor or just Joe Nobody is going to offer their unique take on YOUR work.
That's part of the reason we write, so everybody can have an equal opportunity to take a shot at our puppy. If we're lucky, they've had enough recent experience (and a stout leash on their ego monster) to do it with tact and constructive input. Even so, we birthed this beauty, we nurtured it through sickness and adolescence, and we are damned proud, if not always knowledgeable parents. Those critiques can leave us wondering if we really want to continue in this field. As a matter of fact, we just might feel like telling our benefactor where to jump off.
Before you do that...a small piece of advice. Grow a thick bit of hide around your heart, do your best to shave excess bone from your skull, fold your ego into a tight little package, then put it in your pocket and sit on it! Hear out whoever this person is and graciously accept their input. You should thank them and, if you didn't quite get it, ask them to elaborate. Does this mean you are bound by some unwritten law to incorporate their suggestions? Only if it makes real sense to you. Otherwise, apply the grain of salt you've heard about and move on.
Why not just tell them to PISS OFF? You never know, one day they may be in a position to purchase something you've written or, better yet, promote that same article. Remember the old adage, "The toes you step on today may be attached to the butt you need to kiss tomorrow." Diplomacy is another name for the little white lie. Just a pointer there.
There will come a time when you will encounter someone whom, because of insecurity, insensitivity, or just a really bad case of divorce settlement blues, really lights into you. Public brawls are unsightly and never leave either party in a truly good light. Sun Tzu said the most successful battle was the one that wasn't fought. We have all met this person along the way and all you really can do is smile, nod and move on. Eventually you learn that even bad reviews don't count as much as receipts.
The flip side, of course, is to remember none of us is really ever as good as we think we are. When it comes to someone else's work there is a very fine line between disappointment and decimation. I have had to find ways of being helpful with some very amateurish work. It can be a struggle, especially if the listener has already decided you're an idiot. You've probably had these same feelings, so try to recall them and try a little harder. There will come a time when you will be faced with that story, poem, essay, or article that is just GOD AWFUL. So, do you allow a fellow writer to blithely go about making an ass of themselves? No, unless they seem pig headedly intent on that course. So what to do? Smile, thank them for letting you look at their work and kiss them on both cheeks...Just like the French used to do before any public execution. Save the blindfold for yourself, this will not be pretty.
Remember...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis