Monday, May 16, 2011
When All Else Fails, Criticize
Over the years, I've learned lessons from these faux pas. I understand the difference between peak and pique, for instance. That happened two years ago in a fast effort to meet a deadline, but I haven't made the same mistake since. I don't mind being corrected, but I think it's the how in the correction that makes a difference.
When you witness mistakes in someone's work, before you spit out an email to the writer or editor, ponder these considerations:
1. Is that all you have to say?
In a critique group, you are instructed to open with a positive, mention the shortcomings, then close with another positive. If all you can say is "t-shirt should be T-shirt," and you can't mention what you liked about the publication, then just don't bother.
Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy that the thorn bush has roses. ~Proverb
2. How would such an email strike you?
Once you got over the hurt, you'd wonder if that person only looks for mistakes. Or maybe they don't like your work and found nothing favorable. But how do you know? You become even angrier not knowing if the reader could identify with anything you wrote.
If we should deal out justice only, in this world, who would escape? No, it is better to be generous, and in the end more profitable, for it gains gratitude for us, and love. ~Mark Twain
3. Are you having a bad day?
Just because the kids waxed your kitchen floor with grape jam this morning doesn't mean you take out your frustrations on the next writer you read. Even if you pen such an email, sit on it overnight and then decide if it's worth sending.
The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects. ~Lord Jeffrey
4. Is the email constructively written?
Why be malicious? Would you say this to a person's face? Emails are a fabulous communication tool, but because it is simple to use doesn't mean you shortcut the message, in essence butchering its effectiveness. Say it positively if you wish the writer or editor to take heed.
When any fit of gloominess, or perversion of mind, lays hold upon you, make it a rule not to publish it by complaints. ~Samuel Johnson
We learn from our mistakes, but we learn more deeply from those who love us in the process.