17 October 2011


With regard to the last post, having further reflected on the matter I think I left something important out. It's one thing for strangers to rip each others writing apart. Any reasonable writer expects that from editors and critics, desires it even. But for friends to do it, first requires the development of a great deal of trust.

I do have one friend like that - Ashley Ream. We know each other well enough, are confident and secure enough in the knowledge that we respect, like and admire each others writing that when we tell each other that something we have written sucks our reaction is to wince, sometimes curse, then start thinking about why it might actually suck. (Sometimes we decide the other was wrong, sometimes right, but we know each other well enough to take each other seriously and not take offense at what we have to say to each other.)

But it took a while to get to that point with each other. Trust doesn't develop quickly, no matter how much you like someone or how sympatico you are with them.

The mea culpa part of this post is that I now realize that I jumped the gun, possibly by several years, with the friend whose work I criticized. That was a big mistake on my part. It was stupid and I'm sorry for it.

While I certainly stand by what I said in my previous post, there was an important element left out. Let that be a cautionary tale.

1 comment:

Maggie T. said...

FWIW, I tend to think it's not just a matter of whose work you're reading (or watching or listening to; I can tell you from experience that the same problem exists with actors and musicians) as of when. What I mean is, there are times when we all need nothing, NOTHING other than a big fat thumb's up. I'm about to go make a speech in front of 600 people? Tell me I look fabulous, even if you hate my dress. I have already mailed in my application? Tell me the essay was stupendous, even if you think the section on Sarah Palin lacked rhetorical punch. Etc. And often, the "shut up and lie to me" times are not as obvious as the examples I cited above; they come along because I've had a lousy day or am frightened about whether I'll get tenure or get the job or be sneered at at my high-school reunion, whatever.

This makes it a bitch to be on the editing end. With great reluctance, I have come to believe that there are two options: One is to find something great to say about the workd -- and just about nothing else to say about it -- EVERY SINGLE TIME. Yes, this may involve lying. Tough noogies. Despite what we all imagined we believed -- or enjoyed claiming to believe -- when we were 19, honesty is by no means the most important quality. Kindness -- at least in my book -- rates just tons higher.

The other option (the one my mother finally chose, after losing many, many friends to honesty) is to refuse to read or, at least, refuse to comment. Following Mom's lead, I have for a number of years followed a policy of refusing to read friends' work.