- It tastes great at the time.
- Too much of it is (regrettably) bad for you.
- It (regrettably) needs to be balanced with the sensible stuff.
- Once tasted, you want more and more of it.
- People give it to each other to show love, to bribe them, to make friends, and because giving and receiving are linked.
- You should sometimes reject it.
- It has been scientifically proven to be beneficial to mood.
So, we all need it. Praise, I mean. But actually, it's not like chocolate because chocolate is Truth Incarnate (except mint flavoured white chocolate, which is pure evil and doesn't deserve to be called chocolate) but some praise is False and Must Be Rejected Forthwith.
Praise from someone who doesn't know what the hell they're talking about is worse than mint flavoured white chocolate. Or those pale ones from Marks & Spencer that have absolutely no chocolate in them at all and make me gag. Oh and M&Ms - I nearly walked out of the cinema when my husband was eating M&Ms. All that vacant crunching and crappy plastic smell and not a hint of genuine cocoa. Am I showing myself up as a chocolate snob? Well, in that case I'm a praise snob too.
You should become a praise snob. If you really want to hone your writing and get published, learn to do two things with praise:
- Store it in the cosy bit of your brain to boost you when you have no chocolate.
- Analyse it, judge it, assess it, and be HONEST about it (That makes more than two things but I am being generous.) And sometimes, reject it.
Essentially, all writing-related praise should be thoroughly discarded (after thanking the kind donor and not revealing that you've been told to ignore them by a crabbit old bat from Scotland) if it emanates from the mouths or keyboards of the following. As individuals these are often perfectly lovely people, but they're not qualified to praise your writing in any kind of practical sense, though they may be accidentally correct:
- Your parents, grandparents, children - other relatives may very occasionally give acceptable advice.
- Other unpublished writers, unless they have publishing credentials, in which case listen to them (unless they fall into the blood-relly category).
- Anyone else without some specific reason to know that about which he speaks.
- Your friend.
- Your dog.
Look, I KNOW praise is important - I need it too. I'm not saying ignore all praise: I'm saying assess it. I'm saying be honest with yourself. Some praise is fab but some is simply air. Poisonous air at that.
Ask yourself two questions:
- Does this person genuinely know what he/she is talking about?
- Is this person giving the praise entirely out of the blue and not because you happen to have put him/her on the spot by asking for an "honest opinion"?
There are people I know who are renowned for being honest in their criticism and those are the ones I work hardest to please because I know they won't say it's good if it's not.
The worst places are some online communities and forums. You see people going on-line and off-loading about how an agent or editor has rejected them or said something negative and everyone piles in with poor you, and don't worry WE know you're fab, dahling, when they haven't even read the thing that's been rejected. And of course it's lovely and kind and generous but in terms of becoming published it's so detrimental because it fails to encourage the writer to consider whether actually the negative points might have been worth something.
[Adapted from a much earlier post. There is also more advice about finding and dealing with quality feedback in Write to be Published.]