Monday, November 11, 2013

17199--Can You Handle the Truth?

It's a simple enough question and the answer can be character-revealing.  Better still, it can also be character-developing.

A useful aspect of writing is editorial feedback.  To most people, this is also known as constructive criticism.  Some of it can be more constructive than others.  The importance of it, though, is that it can tell a writer how his work is being perceived by readers.  The writer may, or at least should, know what he intended to convey.  The best feedback will let him know how near he came to the intended target and provide a guide for closing the gap to it.  Critiques and reviews aren't just about blowing sunshine up a writer's ass, delightful as that may be.  They've become public signposts telling other readers whether or not to read a work based on what someone else got from it or failed to get from it.

Whatever you take from someone else's review, you're a third party in a two-party conversation that should be happening with the goal of helping a creator hone his skills.

I've had teachers who were very dedicated to this process, one who was bad at it and another who I'm pretty sure was ready to retire and seemed to have given up on it altogether.  That last one was back in an English class.  She had taken to insisting that we read books of our choosing, writing reports on them, then turning them in only to never see them again.  When we asked about getting the reports back, she would say something to stall and go on with class.  One of my classmates decided to join her in her game.  He told me that he was certain she wasn't doing anything with the papers we turned in and was merely making up grades.  What we wanted and needed, though, was honest feedback.

To test the point, when next she asked for him to turn in his reports, he claimed he already had.  She debated his claim because she had no mark in her grade book to record that he'd turned in his reports.  He countered by insisting that he had placed the reports on her desk.  Her desk was very messy.

She looked upon it with an expression of hopelessness.  It was very, very messy.

"Well, alright," she said, making a mark in her ledger.

Class moved onward and he never heard any more from her about it.  None of us did.  We received no feedback on our work and our potential opportunity for growth was thus squandered.  I can't prove any connection and I suppose it'd be a statistical anomaly were there a connection to be made, but the guy I didn't name above went on to shoot his immediate family a few years later, murdering his mother in the process.  Sure, odds are it's unrelated, but why take the chance?  If you have the opportunity to help someone grow and improve, make that difference.

The truth may sting, but it can also help.

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