Tuesday, October 5, 2010

You Never Know

All---

Two quick stories, one of which I've told many times in different forms:

Story one.  When I was a young teenage writer, pulled back into both reading and writing by Star Trek fan fiction (do not laugh!), I sent a CompuServe note (no, it wasn't e-mail) to Vonda McIntyre, who was a giant among Pocket Book Star Trek authors at the time.  I was already stewing over the question of whether I wanted to publish my writing, or just to write for myself.  She told me then that true writers are story-tellers, and without an audience their story-telling will always feel incomplete.  The impact of this statement has carried through to today.  I think about this constantly when I'm writing, and it has defined much of my approach to the craft.  That said, there's no way she remembers it and no reason she would have thought it would be that impactful when she said it.

Story two.  Not too long ago a beta read a manuscript for a writer friend, whom I will leave anonymous to protect the innocent.  I loved the book, gave it a big stamp of approval, made a few comments about how I thought the ending was a little abrupt and felt weird, but that it was still good.  Lo and behold to my eternal embarrassment I realized, a couple weeks later, after my friend had submitted the book somewhere, that I had failed at reading a .PDF and missed the last two entire stinking chapters of the book.  It didn't change my overall assessment of the book, but I sure felt stupid.

So here's the thing.  You know never know.  You never know when something you say or do will have a long-lasting impact on someone, either good or bad.  Not every life-changing moment seems like one to all the participants.  You also never know when you're going to be the person who did something totally clueless and stupid, so cut other people some slack when they do.

Giving someone feedback?  Great time to remember the first story.

Getting feedback from someone else?  Great time to remember the second.

.Nevets.

14 comments:

  1. Point well taken. Gotta turn those stumbling blocks and make 'em stepping stones! Good share Nevets.

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  2. @Scott - thanks!

    @Steve - Right backatcha, buddy.

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  3. Interesting to receive such a cordial blog invite... :-)

    I loved this post. It's very true and extends to other things as well.

    All people make mistakes - including me - so it would be grossly unfair of me to expect people to be perfect.

    Also, I think it's awesome that people beta read others' books. So even if you made a silly error, it hardly matters, given the huge favor you did your friend.

    :-)

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  4. Good points. There are certainly things to learn from those stories.

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  5. @Misha - Yes, it is very true that these are not lessons about writing so much as they are about life. And in that regard, I suppose they are also bittersweet as they remind me in the broad view of both successes and failures.

    @Golden Eagle - Thanks!

    @Elena - Thank you!

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  6. Excellent point, Nevets. I think this realization has helped me ease up on myself in some ways. Not knowing when you are changing someone's life has made me work to not force those moments as much. At the same time, I do also try to be a tad gentler to people. Sometimes.

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  7. @Domey - That's one of my takeaways from this, as well. I don't have try as hard to make an impact on people. Ahhhhhhhhh. Much better.

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  8. After a recent disastrous experience, I have vowed never, ever again to comment on a friend's work (or, come to that, to ask a friend to comment on mine). Friendship is far too valuable for me to risk sacrificing it on the altar of literary criticism (gosh - that sounds pompous!)

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  9. LOL! How embarrassing that was to have forgotten the last 2 chapters. Oh.. *wiping tears* I love to help people and nurture them on any level on any thing they might need.

    Thanks for the wonderful post and for dropping by my blog!

    ~Elizabeth :)

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  10. @Frances - Don't worry, not pompous. A very valid concern, too. It's one reason that I also negotiate terms in advance. "What kind of feedback do you want from me on this?" is the first thing I ask. "Are you anticipating an overhaul or is this a final check before sending it out?" is usually the second. It helps a lot. But I can understand just drawing that line.

    @Elizabeth - I still can't believe it! hahaha The friend was very gracious, but it was a pretty ridiculous blunder to make, and I wouldn't blame her if she never had me read for her again. I mean. Two chapters? lol aye aye aye

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  11. You know exactly how I feel about all of this. :) I've recently had an experience as well where someone's life was harshly impacted by decisions I made...not knowing how hard they would be taken. This is tough stuff, but we can only be honest if people ask for our opinion. Still, it is oftentimes how we say things that matters most.

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  12. @Michelle - Yep, I do know. :) There's a fine line between thinking twice and second-guessing, and the "how we say things" is often the secret to maintaining that balance. I think. lol

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