Friday, February 22, 2008

Encouragement

You've heard this over and over, but one of the things I love about DH, is he will read my stuff, tell me it's great, and tell me he's looking forward to the next bit.

I don't delude myself into thinking that he really thinks it's always great. I mean, he doesn't have much choice about what to say. If he doesn't say it's great, he gets a barrage of two thousand questions and we have to talk about it all the way home.

But even though I know it's a "canned" response, it keeps me writing.

When you're writing all alone, trudging through a book that takes forever and ever to write, it's hard to get through that without a little encouragement, now and then.

And just a little encouragement, a reader email, a critique partner laughing while reading a sentence, another writer telling you how much they enjoy it, can go a really long way.

When I first started writing, my friend and I exchanged our daily output every night. It was largely unhelpful from a technical standpoint, because we only told each other we loved it. Or we told each other we loved it and maybe made a suggestion about a problem. (Well, I love every word she writes, so it's not like I was making it up.)

I hear people say that this kind of encouragement isn't helpful, sometimes. I disagree. Anything that helps, is a bonus.

Maybe we should be looking for encouragement partners, LOL. Although, I think a good critique partner would be both.

By the way, this is funny. I'm judging in a few weeks for a music festival, and in the guidelines, it asks all judges to remember that "These are children, not adults! Be encouraging!"

That kind of statement comes from a teacher who doesn't teach any adults, I think. Adults are way more sensitive than kids. We've had time for more wounds, LOL.

Grown-ups need encouragement, too.

8 bonus scribbles:

Michelle,  2/22/2008 12:47:00 PM  

Natasha, these are words of truth! I have great CPs and when they really love something I've written, and they tell me so, it gives me such a lift. Relentless 'honesty' is well and good, and maybe even necessary sometimes, but it isn't always inspiring :) .

Mark Terry 2/22/2008 01:59:00 PM  

I think encourage of this type can go hand-in-hand with constructive criticism. I know people think Simon on American Idol is pretty snarky, but for my money, people at that level, who are essentially auditioning for a multi-million dollar career, ought to be a little open to some criticism by someone who knows what he's doing.

An example, though, might be my guitar lesson today. I've been taking guitar for about 10 months, give or take. However, I had 11 years of piano and 8 or 9 of sax, and taught both. I also took a year of piano at the collegiate level, so my musical education isn't as thin as my guitar education. Peter, my instructor, had me write a song a couple weeks ago and I kind of dug into it. I was having a good time and it's pretty damned good, if I do say so myself (called "Paper Cut Blue" in case you were wondering).

Peter today said he thought it was great, was impressed, suggested he would have expected it to come from someone who'd been writing songs for 4 or 5 years, then went through and pointed out things I really needed to think about and why. He talked about why from a technical POV they DIDN'T work, and why from a creative POV they DID work.

I was pleased all the way around. But frankly, it wasn't perfect and I know it. Hell, it's only 16 bars long. And I admit that I sometimes made choices that are a little odd just BECAUSE they're a little odd, and to see if I could resolve the oddness into something that sounded good (which is partly why Peter liked what I did). I didn't always succeed.

But I'm not a fan of sugarcoating things too much. Having someone tell you something is good when it's not can be a long-term problem.

spyscribbler 2/22/2008 04:35:00 PM  

Very true, Michelle. And what a blessing. To hear so many good stories, I almost want CPs, too! I need more time!

spyscribbler 2/22/2008 04:47:00 PM  

Also true, Mark. This was more in reaction to someone dissing family members giving useless praise. An editor giving one sentence of praie she probably didn't mean inspired me to make the rest of the story better.

I think there's a place for meaningless praise.

But if there's a book-world Simon, I'd pay good money to have him rip my writing to shreds.

Zoe Winters 2/23/2008 01:34:00 AM  

I agree Spy, You and Jon, and my husband all were very encouraging about KEPT and I got some constructive crit thrown in as well.

lainey bancroft 2/23/2008 11:01:00 AM  

Absolutely, Spy! But, hand in hand with constructive comments is the best.

Not that I don't love to hear, "this is wonderful" and like it or not, I need it. The encouragement, the validation. But I especially love to hear "this is wonderful because..." or "this isn't quite so wonderful because..."

It is every bit as important to be aware of your strengths as it is to be aware of your weaknesses. IMHO =)

Edie 2/23/2008 11:48:00 AM  

My CPs are great! They tell me what's wrong, but they also tell me that they think it's going well and will leave smileys on the pages.

I do the same thing with them. Like you said, we need that.

But I also agree with Mark about Simon. For the most part, I agree with Simon's assessments. He makes a great judge, but without encouragement his comments aren't helpful at the creating stage.

writtenwyrdd 2/23/2008 05:06:00 PM  

Bless the significant others who encourage and don't tear down. A keeper!