Saturday, September 12, 2009

Best Blog Post Evah.

I have emerged from the wilds of the Canadian Yukon victorious. I will now be basking in Alaska winter awesomeness for the next several months. Woot!

After digging myself out from the mountain of emails I acquired while I was on the Alcan and out of internet range, I began puttering around the internet this morning and I tripped across THIS. Click it. You know you wanna.

What is this, you may ask? Well, friends, this is only a beautifully-written, spot-on blog post by Josh Olson, screenwriter of A History of Violence, about the cruelty of overinflating undeserving egos and many other brilliant nuances. He was asked to read a screenplay synopsis by an acquaintance and... well, you can pretty much guess how the story goes from there, can't you? But seriously read the post. It's so awesome.

I feel like I've been on both sides in a way. I'm no Picasso, but I've been asked to read novels, queries, and synopses, and when I'm asked, I say no. Hate me, I'm okay with that, but I do have logistical reasons - I'm busy with my own writing, I have commitments to my critique partners for their reads, and when I have free time in my writing schedule, I will volunteer to judge a contest for unpublished writers. If you enter a contest, you've shown me that 1) you take your writing seriously enough to slap down an entry fee, even if it's only ten bucks, and 2) you are looking for honest, anonymous feedback from an impartial source. When you ask me in person if I will read your unpublished manuscript and give you a quote to put on your website about how much I loved it... I feel like you don't really want my opinion, you want my rubber stamp of how awesome you are. I don't do rubber stamps.

On the other side, I ask people to read my works-in-progress. I am a bad judge of my own work and I need outside eyes to let me know if I'm going off course. Beta readers. Lots of authors have them. As a supplicant, my frustration is in finding beta readers who will give me honest reactions. They've been broken by the rah-rah society that lies to people about their skills. Singing the praises of something that doesn't deserve praise isn't gonna do me any good. But neither is dissecting and shredding it just to show you can. The art of constructive criticism is highly undervalued. But I can take criticism. I can even take shredding.

As Josh Olson says, "not only is it cruel to encourage the hopeless, but you cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you're not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I've done you a favor, because now you'll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is. The unlucky ones keep on writing shitty screenplays and asking me to read them."

No one could talk me out of being a writer. So could you just be honest with me?

People just wanting rubber stamps is bigger than just the arts. You think this is just about me? Let's look at the trend of "social promotion" in schools. A kid fails a subject or an entire grade but is passed on to the next, and the next, and the next, all because we don't want to permanently damage his self esteem by forcing him to actually learn in order to advance. I realize that different students have different needs. But students with those needs should not get the exact same diploma as the student who worked their butt off and passed every class. It's a disservice to EVERYONE. Let's worry less about self esteem and more about producing functional, productive human beings, shall we?

Could everyone just stop being so damn nice? Please? It's not helping.


Vivant said...

Wow. That really is a great blog post.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people think writing does not require hard work, and are unable to objectively read their own writing to see that what is on the page only vaguely resembles everything they saw in their head.

Vivi Andrews said...

Yep. I'd say it isn't just writing. We're always inclined to see things through our own filter. The world is tinted differently for each of us.