Writers write. I know it sounds silly. To proclaim as axiomatic the notion that writers write actually sounds stupid; but, we need to remember this world, especially this digital world, is all intrusive.
Intrusive =s extrusive
People intrude on conversations; they intrude on research; they intrude upon navel contemplation significant to our current project- they just plain intrude. Everyone wants instant validation. As a result our energies and focus are extruded from the work we need to accomplish. This is especially true for writers like myself, the unpublished sort, yet to be paid for their labor, yet to be compensated for the work done on spec. For us, time management is all the more critical, and it often seems problematic.
Writing requires a special discipline to be successful. One must possess the fortitude to shut out the world and focus on the muse; not easy when wife, kids, job, and yard-work are seldom out of sight and needs. Earning the right to write is a steep climb.
Like many of us, I frequent some writer communities on line to solicit advice, information and news of the publishing world. One particular group I frequent features peer reviews; post a short or a chapter of something for comment. On the surface, it sounds like a good communal opportunity – people sharing and discussing ideas about a brief creative piece. Since we all crave some feedback, and wives, mothers, brothers and sisters can only go so far, the lure of these sites is tremendous!
I wrote a critique of a query letter for one gentleman and received a request from another writer for a review of several chapters of his current book. He suggested that my critique had been fair, honest, and constructive. He wondered what my thoughts might be on his work.
In hindsight, I should have said no. I didn’t and found myself entangled in a banter of exchanges between myself, the writer, and several friends (I assume) of the writer. Said friends adored the narrative and thought I was nit picking. I finally dropped out of the conversation, which continued into the next day. Two days later a revision restoring the short to its initial state was posted and trumpeted as “back by popular demand”. I guess he showed me.
The exchange of ideas regarding content, structure, and other aspects of writing can be invaluable. They can also be time consuming and downright silly. Beware of the on-line critique sites. Check out the comment strings and look for intelligent content and response. The writer who challenges your critique is probably looking for something other than a critique.
In this instance, these writers spent valuable time comparing classes taken ant titles of books read. I got sucked in and spent my valuable time engaged in explaining and justifying a critique. My critique was my take on the material, end of action. Debating my critique served no purpose. None of us will sit next to our readers challenging their disinterest or smiling and nudging them because they find the work interesting. They like it or they don’t; move on.
Another issue is the mutual admiration society, people stroking each other with nice generalities that mean absolutely nothing. We do a disservice to the writer by telling him he’s good when he/she is not – at least not yet. Deep inside, I know when something I write is good, if I listen. Sometimes we choose not to listen to that little voice inside wincing in pain. He doesn’t speak loudly, he’s just there. “Tell me you didn’t write that!”
My advice, use these sites with caution. Write a critique that is honest and let it go. The reverse is true, also. Test your writing on these sites making yourself available for criticism. Some criticism may not be learned and that’s Ok, not all our readers may be as learned. Accept the criticism for what it is, one man/woman’s point of view. Debating the critique serves no purpose and is a wast of time. Most of all, remember you want to be a writer, and a writer writes. He doesn’t get lost talking about writing; he writes.