January 24, 2012

The War Between My Critical Faculties and My Social Faculties

As anyone who’s ever asked me to comment on a manuscript knows, it can be a hit or miss proposition. I have every intention of doing it. I look forward to it before I receive the manuscript and I’m all excited. When I get the manuscript, I’m stoked. I’m all “I’ll jump on that immediately, get it done, I’m so looking forward to it!” But then a niggle of doubt sets in, and I start to avoid a little. I think, what do I really know about giving feedback? You know what, maybe I really do suck at all this. Not only that, but I’m going to horribly offend this wonderful writer person who I adore. God I suck. Then the tension mounts even further, and it becomes this huge weight around my neck that I try to pull away from. Once I force myself to get started on the review, I’m fine. No problem at all. I’ve got confidence, and I think I give good feedback. You can imagine this makes preparing for workshop a bit of a challenge.

So some people have stage fright, and some people have writer’s block ~ I get editor’s block. It may seem silly. I mean, you just have to read, for heaven’s sake. Use your years of thinking about writing and apply it to this manuscript. Piece a cake. But, oh no, it isn’t.

What brought this up now is that a friend (hi, JoAnn!) asked me to help judge a high school writing contest recently. I really enjoyed reading all these young people’s work, and the contest has a fabulous rubric and supporting materials to help the judges. Some of these entries were fabulous pieces of art. But, as you can imagine, it took me a while to get to it.

I used to have the same problem when I was teaching freshman comp and science and technical writing. On one hand, I was supposed to be this supportive teacher and on the other I was the hammer of judgment giving them grades. I felt very comfortable with the former, but the latter was torture. I would think, this person is trying their hardest. They really are. I should cut them some slack. But then I can’t give everyone As. It just doesn’t work that way. I would know that the paper was a C at best, but the person was so nice. So to counter this I had to always go back and adjust grades to that the percentages would even out and be what everyone expects. I had to put my social faculties aside for my critical ones.

I blame my mom. (Hi, Mom!) She’s always been such a supportive person. We joke that if one of us seven kids were a serial killer, she’d say, “Isn’t that nice? I bet she’s very good at it!” I inherited it, and on the whole it’s not a bad quality to have.

Do you have this problem? When you’re going to give someone feedback, does it take forever for you to get to it?

2 comments:

Pembroke Sinclair said...

Speaking of feedback, don't you have zombie sequel you're supposed to be reading? :)

I never have issues giving feedback. I might not be the best or greatest at what I do, but the opinion still matters to the author. They can take it or leave it. Sometimes it's nice just to have an outside perspective. Even if it sucks! ;)

Tamara said...

I almost said (Hi, Pembroke!) at the beginning there. :-)