A Veritable Yes Man

by LimebirdCat

I am a self-professed scribbler for self gratification. I like to write to please myself and, being a contrary creature, I always end up never being pleased with the ends results.

As a great person once said: Am I happy? I am an artist. I am never happy.

I have no idea who said that or if I just made it up. Either way, it is true.

The self critic is never going to be happy. So what do you do? You give it to others for them to have a read.

The bias that exists from those who love you is palpable though, isn’t it? It harks back to yesteryear when you would proudly present a parent with a finger painting you made at nursery. Despite the incoherency of the piece (and the bit of dinner that plopped onto it whilst you ate and painted), they would enthuse about it and hail it a masterpiece.

The same thing goes for being an old and curmudgeonly writer like me. I present my dear husband with something of my ravings and he reads, patiently, before delivering his verdict.

Sometimes he is honest – a bit meandering here, a bit too random there, but over all, he laps it up.

I just don’t know what to believe. Is he being honest? As my long suffering other half, he has the ability to see only but the good in me and will therefore pick it out of my work. He also, quite wrongly, believes himself to be somehow creatively and intellectually inferior to me. Which is insane. We met at University!

Yet, I always wish he’d be more confident in his commentary. I will present him with something with a glaring mistake in and he’ll gloss over it.

Is there anything wrong with this though? It might present you with a slightly skewed version of reality when it comes to your work, but is that too much of a bad thing? I help younger writers with little more than confidence in the end and I doubt I am any different.

It’s nice to have someone believing in you, whether you believe in yourself or not.

I don’t care if I never get published. Why would I, when the only person I would want at my book signing, copy in hand, is my scrumptious husband?

It can get frustrating when people who love you big-up your work and your own gnawing self-doubt contradicts them at every turn, but it helps. It’s wonderful. It keeps you going more than the prospect of any book deal, professional exposure or massively huge and positive critical reception. It’s for the love of the few that I write and for me, it’s what I find the most rewarding part.

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12 Comments to “A Veritable Yes Man”

  1. This is definitely a pickle with regards to loved ones reviewing your work. I think they’re always going to be nicer than someone who is serious about critiquing your work. Like you said, it’s nice to have someone believing in you, but if you’re serious about your work suceeding, you need someone unbiased to read your work.

    Great post.

  2. I agree with Beth, our loved ones have to ask themselves the question – do they really want to know? It reminds me of a commercial we see over here about a short and ah, very stout Mary Todd Lincoln looking at herself in a long mirror while Abe paces behind her. Then she asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?” Abe hems and haws around, “Uh, um…” and then she gives him a very angry look. What did she want when she asked the question? Not the truth.

    Like Cat and Beth, some of us though, really DO want to know if there are any problems with our work. I would welcome the criticism if anyone found problems with my stories. Great post Cat, the support is so dearly needed, but support without a measure of honesty is unfortunately not always helpful.

  3. I totally have this problem. While I appreciate my family’s support, I often wonder whether they’d say the same things if I presented them with my first draft. I don’t know if that ever goes away…

  4. Good insight, Cat!
    My husband is much the same: I can tell he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings, but I also love him for his honesty. It’s a difficult tightrope for him to balance, I’m certain…which is why he doesn’t usually read my work. You’re lucky that you have a partner who is so wholly supportive of your work, even if his opinion might be tinged by his love for you. But, you know what? That’s not all bad. I can only speak for myself, but I know that my ego can be fragile, when it comes to something into which I’ve poured my heart and soul.

  5. That is why I am anxious to get feedback on my writing from people who don’t know and love me.

  6. I think very few loved ones can be totally honest in this situation. If the goal is to get honest, objective feedback to improve your writing, you need someone unbiased as the others have said.

  7. Sometimes when I make my husband read things and his reply is “It’s good” I spend another 30 minutes badgering him “are you sure???” “Are you just saying that !?!?!?!?” He’ll usually end up giving me a suggestion after that :) I think mom’s are not going to give honest feedback, but maybe if you badger the hubby enough you can get a little honest feedback at least.

  8. Well said! I, too, am never satisfied. But I’m happy. I like the challenges of it, the discoveries on the journey. It sounds like you have alot of love around you on your journey, too.

  9. I have been questioning this of late. I’m not sure if he is being honeset to please me or he really does think I can write. It’s a good question.

  10. I think sometimes loved ones can be more honest when they realise that they need to be in order to save you from other people’s harsh judgments! For instance, I do a bit of standup comedy and I practise my routine in front of my partner; I know he’s going to be honest because he won’t want me to make a fool of myself in front of an audience! Similarly when I am submitting an article to a magazine, he knows that an editor might not be as worried about my feelings as he is, so he’ll be honest in order to protect me. He’s still my biggest fan of course, and delivers any critique very gently, but he’s honest because he knows that I need him to be.

  11. I have moments where I love my writing. Of course, inevitably a few weeks later I see more flaws. But the more I work at it, the better it gets. There are some things I absolutely love and do not think I could do better. That will not last. Someone will give me a critique and expose something new or get me to change perspective. But I kind like the ocean of emotions I ride with my writing. :)

  12. I think that’s a conundrum we all face. I don’t dare criticize anything my daughter does. I’d prefer honesty, however. Sweet :)

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