A subject worth discussing

Listen up, and listen good

Stepping onto my proverbial soapbox to utter a few thoughts on something that needs to be said.

If you’re part of an online forum, and you post your material in that forum seeking feedback from other members, you will get all kinds of responses. Some will be positive, and some will be negative – maybe to point of being outright condescending.

How do you respond to the positive ones?

“Thanks. I appreciate it.” Maybe elaborate a little, or a follow-up question or two. Possibly even ask to communicate with the person in private.

The negative and/or condescending ones?


That’s it. No matter how much you feel the urge to respond with a stinging retort written in ALL CAPS and a lot of exclamation points, just don’t. You asked for comments and you got ’em.

A thick skin is a necessity in this business. Arguing or getting angry because you don’t like what somebody said won’t help you or your writing, and it makes you look petty and unprofessional.

Now let’s address the other side.

Somebody asks you for notes, and based on the quality of the material, you do the best you can, trying to be as helpful as possible. Be honest with your suggestions of what needs to be fixed.

Does it have potential? Mention that. Are there problems? Identify them and how they could be fixed.

If the writing reflects an amateur, or a poorly constructed idea, point out how and why in a constructive manner. There’s no need to be insulting or talk down to them. Chances are they’re still learning, so they don’t know as much as you do.

They may not like what you have to say, maybe even going so far as to insult you and your experience, or deride your comments. But that’s on them. You’ve done your part.

So let’s review.

You want help? Take what you get, even if you don’t like it. After your temper cools down, take a serious look at what was said. There may be something in there worth using.

Somebody asks you for help? Be professional and as helpful as you can. Don’t hold their lack of experience against them.

No matter whether you’re giving or receiving, be patient, tolerant, and open-minded.

Keep that in mind, okay?

Thanks. The soapbox is now available.

One thought on “A subject worth discussing

  1. Good post. Unfortunately, condescending is not nearly as bad as it gets. Two things are worse: (1) leading someone to think his / her m/s is a lot better than it is; (2) being deliberately insulting. I’ve seen examples of both–fewer of the latter, thankfully. Just because an analysis SEEMS condescending doesn’t mean it is intended as such, nor does it mean it should be ignored.

    Note-givers’ opinions of the writer should be irrelevant to the writer, whether they show or not. What’s important is what’s on the paper. If, for some reason, you expect humility from a note-giver, remember that you asked them for a read because you thought they know more than you do. If it turns out you thought right, applaud yourself for a good choice and remember, too, that humility is a two-way street.

    “A thick skin is a necessity in this business.” That says it all and can’t be said too often, Z. Acquiring that writers’ hide is a painful process. Many writers, maybe all of us, conflate their writing with themselves, early on. Criticize their writing, and they feel it’s a personal attack on THEM. A friend of mine stopped doing reviews because a first-time novelist attacked him with a folding chair after reading his review.

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