Monday, December 15, 2008

'[W]riting is harder. Lonelier. And nobler'

"A writer, like a boxer, must stand alone. Having your words published, like entering a ring, puts your talent on display and there is nowhere to hide. The truth is revealed and sometimes the results can be disastrous."

During the traditional end-of-semester advice dispensation once, a creative writing teacher told my class, "Be careful who you show your work to." She told a story of showing writing to a friend, whose response was: "This is great. I like it much better than all the other stuff you've shown me. That stuff was bad, but this is good."
I knew then that she was right, but every once in a while I am reminded of how right she was, of how people who are not writers fail to understand how much of oneself goes into one's writing, how personal it is, and how every criticism is a personal attack, and so how carefully criticism should be given.
A good reminder for someone who spends her days editing other people's work, if nothing else. 


At 12/15/08, 4:57 PM, Blogger K said...

Yeah, but the thing is, you have to learn not to take it personally so that it can be constructive. I also think writers have to learn when to stick to their guns and know that the person critiquing just isn't right, this time.

But this should all be considered under the caveat that, no matter what others say, I'm my own meanest critic, so other people tend to be kind in comparison. I appreciate a harsh critique from someone else's mouth.

At 12/15/08, 5:37 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

K, I agree that constructive criticism is, well, constructive, but that's not really what I mean. I mean the offhand comments people lob without thinking, the "Oh, that wasn't nearly as good as the other" or "This needs a lot of work" or "This doesn't do anything for me" with no actual helpful feedback attached. The stuff that comes from nonwriters who are not looking to help so much as just to voice their opinion on the writing that is a piece of you.


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