Monday, May 3, 2010

Go ahead. Tell Me. I can take it.

How many times have you caught yourself saying to someone--"Go ahead, Tell me. Be perfectly frank."--as it relates to your work? You are reminded of this up-front-frankness syndrome by the number of clients and writers who have put this trope down on the table, because invariably those are the ones who begin to see the shifting tide as you go through your list, finally lapsing into complete, combative defensiveness. It has been some time since you've said this to another, largely because you have grown more confident with your work, even to the point of accepting that there are those who will not under any circumstances like your work.

Today, when you were least feeling like it, thanks to a raging sinus headache, a client was badgering you for the truth and you were thinking this was not a good time for you to give such answers, rather this was a time to tell the client you wanted to direct attention to some anomalies.

"This is not profitable," you said. "There is profit in addressing the need for your characters to sound considerably less like each other and more individual." At which point you were confronted with, "So, you're saying I write lousy dialogue?"

"I'm saying you can enhance your dialogue by making it reflect what the speaker wants>"

"All right, so tell me, who do you think writes powerful dialogue?"

"This is off topic," you say. "You are a client. If we were in a more formal editor writer situation, we'd be having this conversation because I had some thought that the work could do well among readers."

"You're all alike, you guys. No consideration for the writer."

"Actually, we are not alike. Editors differ in their opinions as much as readers do in theirs."

"Fucking Gordon Lish, you think you are," the client says.

"Actually, I wrote a review of one of his collections of short stories and my conclusion was that the Emperor had no clothes."

"All alike, every last one of you."

"The funny thing," you said, " is that not all writers are alike--except the ones who tell you,'Go ahead. Give me some honest feedback. I can take it."

We could conceivably remained standing there for some time, exchanging barrages of "All alike." but as you noted, your headache was something not even the coffee was helping, so you got the hell out of there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not even my responses to criticism are all alike. Go ahead and be frank, I probably can't take it, but I'll do what I can.

Feel better.