Friday, August 21, 2009

That'll Do

Ever since I began workshopping my writing last October, I've gotten into a situation where everything I read is up for critique. I also have a job where most of my day is spent with people reviewing my work and me reviewing others'. This means that, not only do I critique my peers' works in progress, but that every time I read a published novel, I am looking for things that are wrong with it. I am looking for reasons to sulk and ask, Why are they published and I'm not?

Well, excuse me for a moment while I have an inner dialogue with myself:
Melissa, you're not published because you don't have a finished novel yet. You can't publish an unfinished novel unless you're famous, dead and have some kind of 'estate'. Which would you prefer? Unfinished, unpublished, and alive? Or unfinished, published, and dead? Don't answer that.

Sorry about that.

It got me to thinking about why I'm the first person to jump up in a workshop and say (more or less): "I liked your novel because of all of the positive things everyone else just said, but here's my list of grievances" and proceed to run around the room screaming 'no taxation without representation!' and a list of 30 or so other problems. This is a bit of an exaggeration but, the point is, I don't always like telling folks what they done good.

But the thing is, I don't like folks telling me what I done good. I want other writers to be better and I want to be a better writer. I don't need someone petting and massaging my ego when I'm trying to do something as difficult as writing a novel.

I asked myself, what is the value of telling people that they did well? And, uh, when I put it that way, I had to slap myself.

I am fortunate to have grown up around a supportive community of people, who rewarded me and encouraged me when I did something well. I surround myself around people who appreciate and love me to this day. And I know not everyone is as fortunate I am.

So, now that I am in a community of writers, whether they be struggling newbies like me or veterans like the writers of the novels I read, I really should give back a little of the love.

Of course it's important to know what you did well. If no one ever told you, you wouldn't be doing it in the first place!

So I hope that the next time I'm in a workshop, or I finish a novel, or I enter a meeting or a review at work, I'll remember to look for and understand what's good about what we're discussing. Because there's plenty of time to dissect the bad.

It reminds me of Farmer Hoggett in that lovely movie Babe, who always remembered to praise his little friend with the simple words: "That'll do, Pig."

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