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?


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. :-)