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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Constructive "advice"

I think that most of us want to be better at whatever it is we do. Not all of us, but most. Certainly writers fall into that category. I do. For sure.
But writing is only part of process when you write. Unless you just write in your diary, or write for fun or to relieve stress. In this blog, I am not referring to you. I am referring to those that do something, anything, and wish to display it and get better at it.
When you write, in the back of your mind (sometimes not even in the back) is the thought that someone is going to see it or read it and give you feedback. That is probably something you should want. If you are writing and nobody ever reads it, you are basically writing to yourself. For most, that is a big waste of time. Writers like to interact and in many cases get noticed. That is a big part of what we do. Some wont admit that, some will, but it still seems to be true. We are expressive people, and express ourselves to others and get a response. The worst thing a writer can have happen is that they put all that work in, put it out there, and nobody cares or responds. It is a very empty feeling, and discouraging to most.
This blog is about the feedback you can give someone when they put themselves out there. There are two types of feedack, Advice and Criticism.
One big knock I get from a lot of my friends and colleagues is that my advice sounds like a lecture. And I would admit that is a valid assessment. Because I am aware of that, I try to preface my comments/advice and make an effort to not sound like I am lecturing and more so that I am making suggestions. It is a very fine line and something I work towards maintaining the right side of that line.
The word criticism implies negative. The word advice implies positive; the aim for better. I don't view it that way. Being critical just means taking a critical look. It is neither negative or positive. It can appear negative if you give it out in the wrong way. It should be helpful and not hurtful. Case in point.
I have friends who simply don't know better and see what they are doing wrong. It would be very easy to make it personal and tell them that they simply are not good enough. Which they aren't at the present time. But we have all been there. Just about nobody starts out as very good at anything. We all find our way.  Make mistakes. Learn our lessons. Make corrections. Form into a better writer, artist, mother, father, worker...person. We may want help to become that, but we don't want to feel bad about ourselves. That is where criticism meets advice in the middle and is helpful, not hurtful.
These people are mostly young. They are trying to find themselves. But they are fragile. If you portray your advice, your critical assessement, your "suggestions" as helpful, they will likely accept them and apply them and be thankful for that help. If you make the "advice" in any way a personal attack or lecture that sounds like "I am good, you are bad" then you are pretty much wasting your time.
Once they feel comfortable with you, they will likely take anything you say in that tone. They learn that you are not attacking anything about their personal character,  just mostly imparting the lessons and possibly wisdom you have learned over time. Something, hopefully that others have done for you in the past.

What we have to remember is that these people are not confident and resilient like us. Not everyone can be how you are, or a certain way. That doesn't make them better or worse than you, it just makes them who they are. They might become that, but right now they are not. You want to nurture them to the point that their confidence grows out of success and knowledge that they have gleaned..from you and others.
May I make a suggestion?

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Daily profile about a specific artist,their life, their work and their impact