The Right to Write: Safe and not-Safe lists

In this exercise, we’re asked to make a list of up to 5 people that are safe to share writing with, and 5 people that are not. My problem in this is that not only does this change all the time, I live in a city with a lot of writers who mythologize and confuse feedback and criticism almost as much as they do the practice of writing itself. It’s not intentional, it’s just part of the deal. I also know that none of the people on my “bad” list are malicious; they’ve just got a way of looking at life and work that doesn’t work for me. I also have some unknowns – people who would be happy to give me feedback and notes, but whom I don’t really know what I’ll get, or who sometimes just don’t get what I’m doing. I minimize naming names here, but it is a list with personas.

Also, Mike, you are not on this list because you are my partner and I have a really hard time reading your handwriting. I know you like reading my work, honey, but it does make you non-objective.

My Safe People:
1. Tonya – we go back, and I know anything she tells me comes from a place of knowing what’s best for the work
2. Liz – sometimes I worry about her being a bit of a fan of mine, but I trust her to be honest with me
3. Karen E. – she has scads of experience. My only problem is that she generally wants to see my work long before it’s ready.

Unknown:
1. Carla – I don’t think I’ve ever showed her any work I’ve written. She’s an excellent writer, I have no idea how she is in giving feedback.
2. Ryan (he’s never really been able to focus enough to offer feedback, which is not his fault at all.)
3. that one – I’m confident she’s good at the mechanics, but I wouldn’t send her an early draft; she’s aware her communications go awry but I’m not sure she’s got the bandwidth to really study and learn new methods of issuing criticism and she tends to look at the other person when there’s a conflict rather than starting with herself. Could be brilliant, but also has the potential to make me hide under my bed and cry.
4. The other Karen (?) writes in my genre, knows her stuff, but harbors a lot of personal fear.

Not safe
1. J – he thinks he knows criticism, but he really only knows snarking. Has a rigid idea of what consists of literary quality, and seems unaware that writing that still needs work or is just bad slips past quite simply because it appeals to emotional themes personal to himself. Unable to separate pathos from logos when it is most necessary to do so.
2. E – controlling. Too many conversations that focus only on her; I can’t trust her to have the other-awareness to support my writing and I suspect her revisions would be along the lines of how she would write it. Cannot separate personal agenda from the actual nature of another person’s work.
3. S – I fully expect to move this person to the “safe” list very soon. He’s willing to learn, has good “other” orientation when it’s called for, and is just fine tuning his criticism receiving skills at this phase of his life. Hopefully he knows that feedback giving skills are a separate set that he can work on, too, and often he does have very good points buried in delivery based on past experiences with other people rather than on the person right in front of him. A broader knowledge of the publishing industry and how it works will make him possibly one of the best feedback-givers available.

I’m sure there are other people interested in pre-reads, but these are the ones that have been the most vocal about it, especially early on.

Filed under: Tasks