>My two favorite readers gave me solid feedback on the novel, so now I’m moving into an editing cycle. In thinking about my reaction to readers reactions to my writing these days, I’m struck with how much I want the truth.
Recently I read a column posted at Salon giving advice to a writer who had been asked by a friend for ‘comments’ on her novel, which, as it turned out, was an awful piece of work. The writer thought that anything less than an honest response would do her friend a disservice, yet she knew her friend would be crushed by the criticism.
The columnist advised the writer to decline the request, and went on at length about the unspoken obligation that the request created. Declining that request was the only way to be liberated from a somewhat uninvited burden.
The columnist wrote:
By refusing to comment on the work you show the work some respect; you allow the work to just be. This is a powerful thing. Sometimes the one thing a writer cannot do is let his or her work just be. If the work is too tied to unresolved ego needs, one can sense that in the work: One senses that the work is petitioning unseen judges. But it is not good to say these things because she is not asking for therapy.
….writing tied to unresolved ego needs? Well, of course writing can be inspired by unresolved needs. The best writing explores the unknown, whether that unknown lies within the writer or in the external world. Writing only about what we know is often too limiting and boring, not only to the writer but to everyone else.
In any event, if it’s pure crap, I’m pretty sure I don’t want my novel to “just be” because no one has the nerve to tell me. If I’m lying in a heap on a darkened stage, emoting and screaming, I’d sure like to know when the audience has determined to turn a deaf ear to me. I don’t need the polite applause.
What is the point of art if it isn’t ‘read’ in a performance? If a writer isn’t ready to have an audience’s response to the work, then the writer shouldn’t be asking for feedback. Writing for therapy’s sake should remain between the pages of a diary and writing that one intends to put in front of a reader should be put in front of a reader.
Finally, a great nugget came out of today’s meeting with my readers. A sexy new title. Washed Up. I love it. Thanks to JP.