Archive for March 26th, 2010


You Say “Potato Chips”, I Say “French Fries”

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

One of the benefits (or perils, as the case may be) in being a member of a creative writer’s group is having your writing reviewed and critiqued by the other group members. Oftentimes those critiques come with constructive comments, such as suggestions for restructuring a sentence to express an idea more clearly. At other times the critiques are more drastic, recommending that entire sentences or even paragraphs be altered or removed. These other points of view are important to a writer because it provides them with a perspective on their work they may not otherwise be able to see. They may not always like what they hear, but they do appreciate the input, for it helps them to become better at their craft…but sometimes it can make for some awkward situations.

Such was the case with a recent piece of writing I critiqued for another group member. Like me, she has a blog and makes regular postings on it for her readers. She asked me to review a posting she was working on that was very long and complex; she was hoping I could make some suggestions for shortening it up a little. Since I had done that for her a couple of times previously I felt okay with doing so again. I read through it a couple of times, found some pieces that I thought could be removed and others that could be changed around a little, and sent it back to her with my suggestions. A short time later, she sent it back to me with responses to almost every one of my notes explaining why she included all those pieces, why she wrote things a certain way, and even why she selected specific words. This person has a gentle soul, I love her dearly, and she goes out of her way to keep from hurting others, but it was painfully clear that my suggestions just weren’t going to work for her.

Many people would have felt hurt (or even insulted) by this, but I wasn’t. I have learned that creative writers tend to be a very subjective group, with no two ever looking at a piece of writing in exactly the same way. They also offer and receive criticism all the time, both good and bad, and learn to take it all in stride. If they can’t, they probably shouldn’t be writing in the first place. There will be other writings she will ask me to review in the future, and items I’ll ask her to review as well; just like this time, we’ll each offer our recommendations, and in return we can take them or turn them down. It’s just the way writers work.

I still liked my suggestions, though…

Postscript: She rewrote her posting, and asked me once again to have a look at it. I happily obliged. Such are the ways of the creative writer…