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Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

Irma, Honest Critics and Honey Trees

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Know any “Irmas”?

Irma (not her real name) is one of those li’l black rain clouds who think it’s their mission in life to rain on everyone’s parade. Negativity drips of Irma like water off a duck’s back. She makes Eyeore look like the Energizer Bunny. A Turkish prison look like Club Med. So when this non-writer who’s never published a sentence beyond “See Spot. See Spot run” started in on my latest magnum opus, uninvited, I made her Queen for a Day.

Naw. Not really. My natural sweetness doesn’t extend that far.

In truth, I smiled sweetly and excused myself. Irma tried again. And again.

Little black rain clouds can be hard to get rid of.

I finally chirped, “I appreciate your interest in my work, Irma. How ‘bout you get back to me when you’ve published something yourself – or have something positive to contribute? Whichever comes first.”

Haven’t heard from her since.

Most writers I know are a little touchy when it comes to presenting their latest work for constructive criticism. It’s like you’ve just given birth. The labor pains have barely faded and the cannibals are hungry. And believe you me, they may not all be named “Irma,” but they’re out there. So choose carefully how, when, why and to whom you offer up your little darling.

One of my harshest critics was a high school English teacher. She regularly chewed me up one side and down the other on just about every paper I ever wrote. Ms. Barton wouldn’t allow me to settle for “B” work. She made sure everything I turned in was a polished product worthy of hard-earned “A.”

It hurt. But when I took her advice to heart and revised, revised, revised, I got better. I learned. I also wound up on the editorial board of the school literary magazine.

Will wonders never cease?

So when you seek to improve your writing, do so with care. If the other person or group is the smug, superior black rain cloud type, move on. Don’t let constant streams of Niagara Falls negativity from a semi-literate peasant gum up your creative works. Life is too short to spend it under a constant downpour.  Lose the black rain cloud. Find an honest critic instead. And keep an eye out for honey trees.

What are you doing to plug in to some constructive feedback on your work?

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