3 Quotes in 3 Days: Day 2
“You have to be brave to take out that white sheet of paper and put on it words that could be evidence of your stupidity.” — Sol Saks, @quotes4writers
Substitute a blog for that white sheet of paper, and, yes, we have a winner!
We bloggers are putting ourselves out there (and some of what we offer is more raw and vulnerable than at other times) on a regular basis — to reach out to others, to improve our craft, and to (hopefully) get to know ourselves better in the process.
We meet new people, we encourage each other, and we send out a perpetual signal to previously unknown souls to let them know they’re not alone.
And in the process, we reveal things about ourselves that can invite criticism from those who feel a need to tear other people down.
Or from those who offer “constructive criticism” in a spirit of “Let me help you change yourself into the person I think you ought to be. Unless, of course, you don’t want to be successful or for your blog to really matter.”
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be open to constructive criticism, but as with what we read, we need to “examine all things, retain what is good,” and flick off the rest.
And we all need to keep growing, while we’re alive. As writers, we can’t be afraid of making ourselves vulnerable and exposing the defects in our characters, as if we were unique in our frailty.
We all say and consequently write stupid stuff. Our writing is an extension of our thinking, after all, and what’s wrong in our thinking is made public when we put it into writing that we then publish in a blog post — for all (who care to read it) to see.
And those who would seek to point out, in a spirit of gentleness and charity, the defects in our thinking — with a view to helping us — are in much the same vulnerable position.
How do we take criticism, even if the one offering it seems overanxious to make sure we don’t feel as though we’re being attacked? It’s never easy to read a correcting word from a stranger, however good his intentions.
It feels like an attack, even if it’s not meant as such. And the one offering the advice, who might just want to help us avoid the same mistakes he’s made in the past (and the anguish caused by them), might just decide — if we react badly — to stop sharing what he’s learned.
I’ve never actually offered constructive criticism to any of the bloggers I know, mostly because I’ve never felt the need to.
And the last time I tried offering it during a creative writing class (decades ago), it was a disaster. It didn’t help that I was chosen to give the first comments on the writer’s story, and the rest of the class then said only nice things about it.
The words, “You suck! You let your loathing for his story come out in your words! You exposed your snobbery for all to see! How will you show your face in this class again?!” played over and over in my head for at least an hour afterward.
And when the writer thanked me for the one nice thing I said (about a specific sentence in the story that didn’t make me think, “Oh, . . . shit! Just STOP!!”), I watched his face and thought to myself, “Yup. He’s plotting my death.”
Criticizing other people’s writing is hard! Maybe even harder than receiving it. I don’t know. It’s a toss-up. Depends on my mood.
As with SO many other things.
But we have to rise above our moods, show up, and create — and put our selves out there in words for others to read, and that takes courage.
Because there’s plenty in what I’ve written so far to justify lots of “constructive criticism,” and while I hope that those who offer it do so in the spirit of gentleness and true charity, I hope even more that I receive it in that spirit.
And that I keep blogging, anyway. 🙂