Tuesday, November 17, 2020


You may know the brilliant children’s book series IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE. This post is not about that if, but about the inevitable creative friends you have (I sure do) whose output you are aware of.

My personal experience is on both sides of this aisle. I’m one who writes and the mother of a performer and the sister of another. I’m an audience member and art-lover. I’ve read plenty on writers and illustrators’ chat boards and heard even more in personal interactions.

This post is about how well-meaning friends and relations manage to inadvertently stick daggers into the creative bubbles. It’s one thing if they intend to, but this is about the unintended insults born of (let’s be generous here) ignorance.

The most common ones are going into the list below. Feel free, in the service of enlightenment, to add in the comments.

The first one is the biggiest of biggies.

*Don’t ask to read/see/listen to your friends’ creative work and then say nothing. If you can give constructive criticism, that is helpful. You can always couch it with what you genuinely thought worked. But saying nothing is the worst. If you really thought it was not good, say something, and don’t ask again. One writer I know said a relative walked over to tell him she had read his book. Then, you guessed it, nothing. Relative changed the subject.
Don’t. Do. That.

*Don’t offer advice about something you know less than little about. A writer on a chat-board lamented her husband told her she should “storm the acquisitions meeting” at a publisher, after her agent told her the manuscript was going to acquisitions that Tuesday. Maybe in husband’s business this is done, (doubtful) but a more likely explanation for this sort of advice came from seeing movies or reading “take charge of your life” silly how-to books. Similar nonsense advice is to pester published writers for “their connections.” This is how corporate America works, but not fine publishing.

*Be fair and accept that if you don’t like something, someone else might like it. Creative output appreciation is subjective. Professional reviewers ignore this stance, as they must convey confidence and the illusion their assessments are objective. They are paid to believe this and make us believe. Don’t. Be. That.

Reading the above, it is tempting to never ask to see or hear others’ work. But if you’re genuinely interested and your creative asked for your advice, be a good friend and do the best you can. If you know you can’t, be a good friend and say you can’t.
My Beta readers are the bestest and I try to be half as good to my friends as they are to me.


Vijaya said...

lol to storming acquisition meeting.

i love my critters too.

Kelly Hashway said...

I think most people don't understand how this industry works because it is very different from many others. My husband always tells me how strange the literary world is in how we operate. It doesn't make sense to him.

Mirka Breen said...

That^ sage spousal advice was posted in a thread of the old BB, some ten years back. It came with a few more gems.

Evelyn said...

Good advice, Mirka. I have a local self-pubbed acquaintance who asked me to read one of his books and write a blurb for the back cover. I found it very awkward to say no to him, but I'd read other stories of his and knew I didn't want my name on his book endorsing it.

Barbara Etlin said...

You hit on the worst ones, here. A couple of friends asked to see my novel manuscript, read it, and returned it without saying ANYTHING!

MirkaK said...

As a fiber artist, I turn to people whose work I admire and who know how to give constructive criticism. It is a fine art in itself. I've led critique groups and always start off with important guidelines so that what's said is useful. Otherwise, it's a waste of everyone's time.

It is certainly true that appreciation of creative efforts is highly subjective. Today, a couple unexpectedly bought a fair amount of my work. Two pieces were from more than a few years ago. I could have thought less of them because they hadn't sold before, but all it takes is the right person--art lover or editor at a publishing house--to be drawn to what you've created. You just never know who that person will be, nor how much time will pass. Many famous writers couldn't get published at first; then someone took notice and took a chance with them. They believed in their work, and so must we in ours. Forget the relatives and find people who are capable of giving solid feedback.

Mirka Breen said...

Congratulations, MirkaK, on the recent sale. Your quilts are extraordinary as is your eye and blog posts on art.

theartofpuro said...

Beautiful post :)