how to CARE for your writer: a primer
13/30 of #authorconfession
What’s the best thing someone has said about your writing?
I know I have a habit of turning fairly simple questions on their side, or connect some loosely relevant topic and make it into a blog post — but that’s why you love me, right? RIGHT?!? 🙃
Anyway. I wouldn’t want to spend time trying to pick out one compliment that I’d consider as above all others, because any compliment is nice and appreciated. If there’s one thing I appreciate most it has to be the encouragement I got: from my Mom, from friends, from colleagues. The type of encouragement that’s full of trust and love. When they didn’t care what I was writing, as long as I was going for it.
And that got me thinking. There’s a lot of ways people can — often inadvertently — hurt a writer. We are a curious folk. So here’s a little taste of how to treat us that speaks to our peculiar nature.
Stage One: ‘The Encouragement’
So, you’ve got an aspiring writer on your hands. Don’t panic! They’re still good folk, they’re still your friend/child/parent/relative/coworker. Things are just going to be a little different now.
When the first inkling (see what I did there? 😜) rears its fuzzy little creative head, it’s important you don’t scare it. Writing, like any creative expression, scares easily at the beginning. Welcome it.
You don’t have to be interested, in which case a simple “Wow, good for you!” will suffice. Show the poor sod you’re okay with their choice. There’s enough self doubt in a beginner writer to service a small village. They need to know they’re not shunned outright from society.
This is what I, personally, would pick as the most important thing in my life. It took me twenty years to realize my inkling into a career and profession. Having that patient encouragement is crucial.
Stage Two: ‘The Feedback’
Alright, you’ve been supportive and whatnot, and now the poor bastard has actually written something-anything down. Maybe it’s a poem, maybe it’s a short story or a novel. It can be a single sentence for all it matters. They got through the painful self-questioning and decided to show it to you.
That responsibility cannot be overstated.
When giving feedback to a writer, no matter how experienced they are — or not — there are a few DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind.
- Either read it or don’t. Never, ever!, say that you’re going to read it and end up not to, but bullshit them anyway. We’re not fragile, we can accept that you don’t have time or you’re simply not interested. Say that you’re not into sci-fi, you can’t be bothered to read, or whatever the reason may be, and be done with it.
- Don’t say “it’s good”. Be specific. First of all, see the point above — non-specific feedback is bullshit. Show the respect for the writer and for the work by being specific. A single thing you liked is good. “Hey, I loved the character in chapter two that had that one line.” Or: “Wow, the pacing was awesome.” Anything that signals that you took your time with the thing.
- Be honest. I mean, really. If you didn’t like it, and you gave up after three paragraphs: great! (Not “great” great, but still great. That’s feedback a writer can — and damn better should — use.) If you didn’t like the characters, the pacing, the wording, the whatever: say so!
- Don’t offer solutions or suggestions. (Unless you’re a writer yourself. But in that case the whole relationship is way, waaaaay too complex already, so I’m not gonna cover it here. Let’s assume you’re a reader.) If we made a mistake, it’s on us to fix it. Maybe it’s intentional and you just didn’t get it. This isn’t about ego, it’s about building the professional skillset of writing. You didn’t like something, it’s up to the writer to check and figure it out.
These three major rules cover just about every interaction you’re likely to get into with a writer. It’s pretty easy, no?
Silent encouragement and honest, open opinions — that’s the “great secret”. Everything else, anything more or anything less and your writer is going to get confused. About their career/hobby choice, their skill, or even about their relationship with you.
That’s assuming of course you want to keep them around, but if you don’t, why on Earth would you read a post titled “how to care for your writer?”?!?
Write, document, repeat. I’m doing this new thing: it’s an experiment, mixing different platforms and media to tell the different stories of a working writer: the good, bad, ugly, mundane and spectacular. Documenting my life, initially for a year, and see what happens. Journaling privately has been such a blast and a useful foundation to become more consistent, and I thought I’d try my hand at making certain stories public.
It’s really about going all in: trying out a bunch of stuff, different media — text, images, video, and see what shakes out. I’d love to know what you think: get in touch with me on social media, and tell me what you like/don’t like.
Thanks! I really appreciate your time and attention.