Monday, June 8, 2015

We’re Teaching Failure by Linda S. Glaz

We’re teaching not only the next generation, but our friends who are writers as well:
On a recent FB post we were discussing min wage and various other topics that brought about some interesting responses. It went from working hard to get ahead so a person didn’t need to accept min wage, to going into the military to get an education, to whether or not kids deserve trophies merely for participating. Are we telling the next generation that simply “showing up” is enough to get the reward, the paycheck, the diploma, the win?
And for our discussion here let’s ask this? How honest should we be with our writer friends? Do we do all 5-star reviews just because they’re friends? Do we give super high scores on entries for writing contests because we don’t want to discourage new authors? Do we gloss over mistakes for our critique partners so we don’t hurt feelings?
What good are we serving in any of these three capacities if we aren’t honest?
I am guilty of every one of these things at one point or another. Okay, as a soccer board member, I didn’t vote to give trophies to everyone just for showing up. In fact, our region fought to keep competition an important factor in play. And we were stronger for it.
However, as a writer, I have glossed over someone’s work, particularly in the beginning when I didn’t realize that I was doing more damage than good.
While defending my post stand on FB, I was honest when I said that I waited 18 years from the time I started to write until my first publication. And part of the reason was that I wasn’t listening and needed more honing of my skills, but also because a lot of friends, family, as well as my early crit group simply were not being honest with me. I had a LONG way to go and I needed to have that pointed out to me.
So I ask it again. Are we teaching failure by not being brutally honest? We don’t have to be cruel, but we have to help people grow instead of stunting their growth by giving everyone the trophy without having to play the game.


Elaine Stock said...

Linda, I can so relate to what you're saying about critiques I received years ago: they were so nice and encouraging. What a shame, I say now in hindsight.

Linda Glaz said...

And we also have to remember that with brutal honesty comes the responsibility to remove the brutal and replace with gentle words. Say the same thing without annihilating the other person. We can be a "brutal" without the brutality. I think you get my drift, but we don't do them any favors to tell folks how wonderful it is when we have to force ourselves to finish the read. And sometimes it's just a matter of not caring for a certain genre. Be honest about that and don't crit it or review it.

Terri Tiffany said...

I recently critiqued a writer and shared that she needed to learn POV. She had been published by a very small publisher. It was awful. I was nice but never heard back from her. I make an effort to share with other writers what I've been told about my writing. I appreciate the truth. Who wouldn't? How do we improve?

Terri Tiffany said...

PS and I'm a mom who doesn't believe in awards for everyone. Learn to fail. You only get better.

Anonymous said...

Excellent! I applaud your honesty. We all have to learn the skill of giving honest critiques and still leave the writer feeling good about himself. And as writers we need to develope tough skin so we will truly get better at the craft when someone really takes the time to help us.
I agree trophies for participation are lame. A certificate of participation is fine. They see the trophy and want to work toward that goal. It goes back to my first comment. Coaches need to encourage players to do their best. Praise their best, point out their weaknesses and help them through disappointing losses. Paticipation certificates should stop after the age of 10. By then they really have figured out who are the best and what they need to do to be one.
Cindy Huff

Linda Glaz said...

Terri and Cindy spot on. Both with how we deal with other authors as well as sports. We can't fail people, they will learn nothing if we do that.

Tim Suddeth said...

It depends on what the goals are. If a child is learning to kick a ball without falling down, no need to score. As their coordination gets better then the competition and the goals (ha ha) change.
For a writer, if they just want to write for fun or family, pop may not be a big deal. But to write for publication and sales, then all the tools and rules should be heeded.
The previous example got published. That might have been her goal. Then congratulations.

Delores Liesner said...

We can be honest without being cruel if we keep both grace and truth in action. Otherwise I think we are the failures and it will someday come back to bite us.

Linda Glaz said...

You captured it, Delores. There is a way to say things. I entered a contest once and was told everything except "Don't quit the day job." She minced no words and simply ripped the entry apart. Thank goodness I have skin tough as a rhino.