The Wild Wild Sea

I’m such a bloody nice guy. This is the third time I’ve had to restart this blog for fear of either provoking or insulting someone…and my kids wonder why I couldn’t cut it as a talk radio host…nor a comedian. Besides, I’m much funnier when I have time to edit.

I do love the feedback my writing brings, more than anything. Now, I’m not talking about Twitter’s Favstar nor the infamous “Like” button of Facebook. Those tell me people have seen the post…and I do appreciate the acknowledgment…but that’s not feedback per say. ..and don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect feedback either…just saying it tickles a might when it comes.

Praise and criticism, however, come in very different forms.

Constructive criticism is the easiest to explain. Errors in style or fact…plot flaws in fiction…or whatever. A person cannot be much of a writer if they cannot deal with this. This is where you learn The Craft…and it is a craft above others in that one needs to project everything to the reader from the sound of the crackling vinyl record that muffles the moans of the couple intertwined on the ground…to the burgundy paint splattered on the red oak hardwood floor where the lovers accidentally dropped their paint rollers…to the golden retriever who pants while acting as part guard dog, part audience.

Sorry, got sidetracked there.

I have had many courses on writing and could probably teach…and I am working on my kids a bit already. It always makes me laugh, however, that whether the constructive criticism comes from the teacher or a fellow student, usually half of those taking the course are upset and take it personally.

Then there is praise and criticism that is more about applause and heckling, as opposed to correcting.

Generally all of the praise and most of the criticism is personal to the reader. The reader was touched in some way by the words. The reader believes the writer understands their view…their beliefs…their life…or at least knows how to make them think or laugh (my personal favourite). Some believe the writer somehow was able to see things through their eyes. As I have said, however, criticism sometimes hits here as well…people are unhappy by what was written, or disagree. They see it that the writer missed something that caused them to veer off track from how the reader felt it should be. Either way, these comments can lead to discussions.

The other side is a bit odd. This form of criticism (and very rare praise) is shrouded. It is still personal, but it is usually a comment from someone claiming to represent someone else…or a group. They come at you sideways and point out how your writing is insulting ‘so-and-so’ and how bad that is. Take all those who yelled ‘Blasphemy’ at the film “The Last Temptation of Christ” that did not see it, for example. There is no constructive discussion after this…but if there was, it would begin and end with two questions from me…”If I’m insulting them, why are you coming at me? Why aren’t ‘they’ telling me?” This criticism is more a bullying tactic. If a writer unfortunately does react to this, it inflates this particular reader’s (and I use that term loosely here) ego. You see this a lot in the political blogosphere where once the writer declares to be right or left wing, those from the other side discount anything that writer creates without even glancing at it.

Feedback is how I learn…what I did right, what I did wrong, and who the nut jobs are. Without feedback, a writer may as well be talking to a wall.

I still like to paraphrase the one and true Rush…good Toronto based band…I write it, roll it up, stick it in my computer and cast it out into the wild cyber sea. Once a reader finds the bottle, gestault decides the rest and creates a masterpiece. The writer needs the reader just as much as the reader needs the writer.

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