Writing Wrongs

February 17, 2005

Feedback is not a good thing.

Got your attention?


Actually, I was writing an email to a friend when the phrase Feedback is not a good thing somehow morphed into being. I think I was halfway between typing Feedback is good and Feedback is not a bad thing.

Excuse my Freudian slip.

The point to the email, and something Iíve been pondering for a while, is this notion of how a writer balances ego with humility. Sometimes you need a fresh set of eyes on your work. Sometimes you have to get over yourself and admit that whatever it is you tried didnít work. Sometimes you need someone to tell you: ďGravity doesnít work that way.Ē or ďThere isnít room on the back of a camel for that

But you canít write a novel by committee. At least, Iíve always believed that. Thereís a group at a writing site I frequent thatís trying to do just that. I watch, because itís fascinating in one way and terrible in another. Iím afraid someoneís going to crash and burn, hard. Iím afraid maybe some already have and no one will hear from them again.

Barbara Samuels said in her luncheon address at last yearís RWA conference that a writer is someone for whom the parade is always out of step. I think this is why writers are often so anxious to connect with other writers. We want the relief of knowing that at least one other person hears the same tempo we do, that weíre not totally out of step.

In our anxiety, we give these other writers too much power. Sometimes to write something really good, we have to risk writing something bad, something other writers wonít like or will disdain. We have to risk being out of step with our peers.

Sure, we could try to please everyone. In which case, we might end up with the literary equivalent of fast food. Itís not bad, but itís not really good, either.

Writing a novel is a scary thing and wanting reassurance every step of the way is natural. But sometimes you got to cut the safety net and take a leap of faith.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 2:26 p.m.