Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Can You Say That? I Care!

That stupid restless leg syndrome I have going on kept me up into the wee hours last night.  I passed time by stretching in front of the tube and watching Hell's Kitchen (gotta love TiVo).  This one exchange between Gordon Ramsey (a man whose restaurants have won TWELVE Michelin Stars) and a contestant:

Gordon: Those potatoes are raw.  Why do I bother?  You don't even care!

Girl:  How can you say that? I care!


Gordon:  I know you don't care because you don't question yourself.




She doesn't care because she doesn't bother to question her work?

She knows how to cook potatoes.  She's likely done it a ka-zillion times.  She is talented and good at her craft. 



She assumes she knows more than she does and isn't being thoughtful about her end product.


As I am preparing to go into edits on my next novel (Skies Like These - slated for Spring 2014 - woot! woot!), these words shook me.

I grabbed the TiVo remote and rewound the exchange.

So often I have met writers who want to succeed but who are not willing to question (or have anyone else question) their work.  They ignore critiqueThey fold under any suggestion of change.  They are so certain they are doing it right, that they plow ahead and think all those people who are gently suggesting a course correction are off the mark.

I can also fall into this mire at times - but, if I am to consider this writing thing as a profession (and I truly do) then I must be cognisant and do all I can to avoid it.  I must open my mind and be a fair critic of my own work.  I must consider my editor's input and be willing to be thoughtful and mindful of each choice I make in my manuscript.


I must care enough to question myself.


Tell Me:  How open are you to questioning your work? Can you overdo it? Do you tend to blow off critique quickly? Or, are you one of the lucky ones who has found the perfect balance (and if you are - tell us how you got to that magical place!)?



DL Hammons said...

I'd like to believe I'm very open about critiques, but that doesn't mean I won't stick to my guns if I disagree with a suggestion. Balance is the goal! :)

Anonymous said...

The purpose for writng in the first place is probably the critical factor. In saying that, we write because it is a passion, and therefore, what we want 'done' with our writing is possibly even more pertinent in relation to this issue.
It would appear that if a person wants to forge a career out of writing - the processes of re-writing, editing, critiquing, etc., are required.
I have the utmost admiration for those who are willing to hand their 'babies' over to others to make comment and suggestions for improvement.
I can't imagine ever being able to do this, and as I have no desire to consider the publishing option, it is a relatively mute point.
I'm not sure that the process would ever be an easy or enjoyable one - and yet the benefits of engaging in the process would need to be the compensation for allowing others to tread on 'sacred ground'.
It must be one heck of a journey.

Stephanie McGee said...

Basically, I go overboard on teh whole caring thing and worry endlessly about my work. If it's good enough, people are going to like it, etc. Balance? What's that?

Anonymous said...

In the words of Ellen Gilchrist:

"When we let another person read a manuscript we want complete and instant praise. The artist is a two-year-old child. She does not want to be criticized in any way. That's what you have to deal with to be a writer." ~ Ellen Gilchrist, The Writing Life

Tess said...

DL: it is the goal, yes - but so difficult!

Accidental Writer: you've said it well here - there is a sacredness - or at least a perception of it - between us and our written expression. Turning that over is difficult. As you said, a journey.

Steph: you make me giggle -

Linda: Love it! I am printing that out - it's a keeper.

Martin Willoughby said...

That is a very good point. And there was me thinking I couldn't learn anything from foul-mouthed-Ramsey.

Tess said...

Martin: so true! which is exactly why the show is TiVo'd and watched out of kid ear-shot. But yes, a good lesson.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Congratulations on your new book, Tess! That is wonderful. I know everyone will love it, just like the loved LOVE. :)

I question my writing all the time. Getting a good critique is so helpful. By a good critique I mean one that questions work work and makes you make the piece stronger. When I critique I write questions in the ms if I don't understand something or if I really like something. I always worry that I might hurt someone's feelings with a critique, but I figure if you don't want my real opinion, you shouldn't ask me. :)