Thursday, July 16, 2009

Are You Teachable?

I believe this is called a rant. Please beware!!!!!

Have you ever been in a critique group where a person wouldn’t take the advice from someone because they weren’t as good of a writer as they thought they should be?

When I first started out, this happened to me with a group of writers (not my current critique group-they rock). I didn’t know the grammar rules as well as I should. I didn’t know plot structure or what an antagonist was (*gasp* I know, scary).

But I did know something…I knew how to read. I knew what sounded right and what sounded…tedious. I could pick out the sentence structures that sounded wrong. I also knew how to put down a bad book. Yet, my advice was counted as nil.

Over the years, I have taken many classes to learn the semantics and syntactical use of language (I actually know what those mean :) Well, kind of. I may have used those wrong in that sentence, but you get the gist. Right? *fingers crossed*). I’ve learned language development, usage of grammar and punctuation (yes, I still use my spell-check. Much to the dismay of my critique group-they helped me critique two research papers last night. I made lots of mistakes. LOVE YOU GUYS! I owe them big…I owe them big), I’ve taken creative and non-creative writing…the list goes on, but that is not my point. This is my point…

Even though I have and am taking all these classes that hopefully will help me…I still don’t know everything there is about writing. I may never know everything. I may be getting A’s in my English classes in college, but that doesn’t make me–wise.

As writers, we work our baloganas off to create a work of art. We learn the craft of writing, we learn how to become better. To a point. Sometimes we work so hard, we think we know it all.

When someone less learned than we points something out to us, do we ignore them, just because we know better? *mwa ha ha ha – throwing hair back behind head like some evil villain of villainy* Or do we stop and think, “Hum…maybe they have a point.”

I do understand that some things critiqued can be laid aside. And that’s okay. But if we are letting our smugness get in the way, well, that’s a different matter.

Our readers are not writers, yet… they know a good book. They will be able to pick out plot holes, find grammar errors, and yes…even be bored with our writing. We shouldn’t blow them off, because “they just don’t understand writing.”

We need to be teachable. We need to learn from the advice from others.

It’s the only way we can get better and reach our dreams.


Heidi Ashworth said...

I recently sent my completed manuscript (Miss D Two) to five people to critique, four of which are unpublished and some not writers at all. The published writer gave the worst advice. Since the reader is the audience, how the reader perceives your work is mucho important. The person you described just doesn't get it.

Carolyn V. said...

To be honest with you, It wasn't just one person. I know I've done this before.

My friend and I were talking about it the other night, and I realized how easy it is to fall into this trap.

Now whenever I say, "Well, they just don't know what they're talking about," my writing buddies can say, "Do you remember that post you wrote?"

hee hee.

L.T. Elliot said...

Firstly, I think I can speak on behalf of our entire group when I say that no one has ever been dismayed with you--especially over spelling. You silly girl.

Secondly, did you write this post about me? I mean, I know I'm the queen of Jerkwadia but still! Oh, all right. I'll mend my wicked ways. Teach me! I'm willing to learn!

On a serious note, I think at some point we all get a little hardened to the craft. We all let a little "fame" go to our heads and "forget" to be teachable. The important thing is to minimize those times and remember that no one is perfect. I know I'm not perfect and that's why I idol worship my critique group. Without them, I'm doomed to failure and an overblown ego. For me, the reader is the best sort of judge. If I fail them, it won't matter how much learning I have.

Great post, Carolyn. I'll try not to be so much the Queen of Jerkwadia, -k-? (Hee hee hee)

Terresa said...

Being teachable is a great thing to learn to become, not only in writing, but in life...

Fine thoughts here.

Nichole Giles said...

Amen to this, Carolyn! It's sad, but I think we all fall into this trap every so often. Fortunately, most of us are smart enough--or teachable enough--to get over it and take the advice we're given.

But there are writers who argue, and justify, and continue to argue with the rest of us because, well, we just don't understand why it HAS to be this way.

These are usually the people who take the longest to get published--if ever--because they take twice as long to learn. And those who do--well, la-di-da, maybe they are smarter than the rest of us. But that doesn't mean we want to be in a crit group with them, huh?

Great post. I enjoy your thoughts--and FYI I think you're an awesome writer!

Carolyn V. said...

L.T. I hate to tell you, but I it's not you either. Dang it - you need to be meaner! j/k

Terresa, wow, you're right. This just doesn't apply to writing. Thanks =)

Nichole, hee hee, I love your comments. It's good for me to always keep my lips shut tight when I'm getting my work critiqued, or I might spend the night defending my words. Silly me.

Anonymous said...

I think the important thing to remember for anyone getting critiqued is simply this:


I have to step back once in a while and remember that I am asking for my readers to help me make the book stronger. Now that they're doing it, it would be pretty silly to tell them why they're wrong!

It still stings when you get a critique (especially someone that you REALLY don't think knows what they're talking about), but you still asked for it! :)