Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Everyone's a Critic?

"Why don't you write books people can read?"

~ Nora Joyce, to her husband James

Those closest to you -- your partner, parents, best friend -- are not always the best people from whom to seek feedback for your writing.

Remember, your work is as much your creation as is your child. You have no more right to knowingly expose it to influences that could harm it or set it back than you do your child.

Seek out only those people and situations that will support you and your writing. Always use your discernment.

Where do you turn for healthy feedback? How do you ensure that the comments you're getting support you and your writing?

~ adapted from "How to Get Healthy Feedback," from The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write

Photo: James & Nora Joyce, 1915 -- Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University


Greg Halpen said...

Mark David,

This is a wonderful and powerful tip. Not only will it strengthen ones ability to listen to "the voice of our muse," in addition, this action step will help reinforce all other areas of our life.



Mark David Gerson said...


Thanks for noticing the subversive secret of all my work around creativity and writing: all the tools 'n tips apply equally to everyday life. (We'll keep it our secret. Okay?)

Mark David

Mel Menzies said...

You said: "Seek out only those people and situations that will support you and your writing. Always use your discernment." Mmmmmh! Not so sure about that. That suggests that we don't open ourselves up to honest critique. Am I going to be branded one of the people you don't seek out :)for saying that?

Some of my sternest (and best) critics have been other writers. And one of the best comments I had was from a close friend who suggested I change the whole of one POV in my novel "A Painful Post Mortem" from 3rd person to 1st. It was the best bit of advice ever. Mel

Mark David Gerson said...


"Support" doesn't mean always saying nice things or offering false flattery.

It means that whatever comments (or, yes, critiques) are offered are done so in a spirit that respects writers and their work and respects, too, where the writers are in their process with a particular work.

Too often, people are more interested in being smart than in offering the kind of feedback that will truly grow the work and the writer.

That's where discernment comes in -- it's up to writers to determine who will best support their creative growth and the maturation of their manuscript. And it's up to the writers, too, to discern which "advice" is helpful and true (in the moment) and which is not.

There's nothing wrong with tough love. Just be sure it comes from the place of a genuine desire to help....and with the knowledge to back that up.