30 January 2012
Building Up and Tearing Down
This post goes along somewhat with my earlier one regarding surrounding yourself with successful people. Successful people are going to be the ones who build up others, not those who tear them down.
This doesn't mean that you have to celebrate writing that isn't up to snuff, but it's still important to encourage the author. People enjoy being around those who build them up and give them support (something that's extremely useful for anyone in the creative arts, where rejections drag you down over and over again).
So, how can you build a person up and still help them to improve? First, the person has to be willing to accept constructive criticism. If they aren't, then you're dealing with thin-skinned individuals, and it's best to smile and nod...and hope that they develop a thicker skin in the future. Second, it's best to wait for someone to ask for feedback (which doesn't take much in most cases...who among us hasn't asked "what do you think?" to our other writer friends). Once it's come to that point, mention issues as you see them, but offer up suggestions for how to improve. You'd be surprised how your suggestions will be taken, and how your feedback will likely be sought out in the future.
On the alternate side of the coin, publicly pointing out flaws (especially ones you think exist, but actually don't), when there hasn't been a request for a critique, is a great way to alienate yourself. I'd take it one step farther, and restrict public comments to critique sites. People don't want to hang out with those who only tear others down, and if you do so, proceed at your own risk. Even if the flaws exist, it comes off as being petty.
So, wait for that request for feedback...it will come. And then, offer it up with suggestions for improvement rather than just being critical. In the meantime, be supportive of their efforts, and encourage them. It's the best way to build others up.