Monday, 30 November 2009

A word in your ear....

You know those little chats good friends have with you? Well, please take this as one of those, if what follows applies to you.

You attend a talk, a workshop, a reading event. You contact the speaker/writer later, and say how much you enjoyed the talk/reading/workshop. And how much you want to learn about writing. The speaker/writer replies, thanks you for your nice message, and gives you a link or two to places where you can learn interesting stuff about writing.

You write to her again, to say thanks. How interesting. But you also attach some of your work, two full length stories, and say, 'Be honest. Give me some feedback. What do you think of these?'

The word in your ear is Please please don't do this. Entrusting me with your work may be a lovely thing to do, but you don't know me from Adam, or Eve. First of all, you don't know that I will treat your words with respect. You don't know that I won't 'do a Bruton' and use your ideas and plots for myself. Your ideas are precious.

But also, you are making an assumption. You are assuming I have a couple of hours to spare, with nothing else to do to fill them. You are assuming that I do not have my own work to do, my main work - my writing. You are assuming I will do your critiques unpaid, instead of the critiques I might be doing on a paid basis for other writers.

All I am doing is asking you to think...


Anonymous said...

Expressed with delightful tact and delicacy - all the same, profoundly relieved I'm not among the guilty ...! Poor you: a situation where one ought to be flattered, but ends up irritated instead - double plus ungood.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Its a toughie - I think it's simply that some thought is needed.
Maybe, when you are starting out you don't see yourself as 'working' when you write. It's something else that you do, alongside the day job.

but you reach a stage where writing and allied activities 'are' the day job - so effectively, if you send your work like this you are saying 'do some work for me?' with no mention of paying for it!

No doubt they wouldnt do that to a plumber or the electrician.

Think of me as a plumber!!

lyuba said...

Yes, I can see this must be a problem for you, V. The thing is, you do come across as helpful, encouraging and, that rarest of beasts, actually knowledgeable both here & in your workshops etc., so aspiring writers, desperate for a leg up in the game,make unreasonable assumptions like those you've enumerated in your post. It's not your fault, it's theirs: they're expecting something for nothing, which, as we all know in this big world, just isn't realistic or possible, most of the time.
So, good on you for giving them a graceful body swerve, and don't feel bad about doing so, either. And if someone tries to make you feel guilty about discouraging a beginning writer (as someone will, inevitably, do) you can always redirect the unwanted ms to said person for their own attention...!