Plugging One's Ears Dept.


My friend Matt Buscemi had something sharp to say about my previous post: "You get to ignore stupid feedback when you're read enough and gotten enough feedback to know that the feedback giver's advice comes from an experience narrower than your own."

I think at this point I've earned the right to ignore feedback I think is foolish, because I've had at least some practice at determining what kinds of feedback are suited to making a given thing better.

The editor I brought in to help me polish my last book (Welcome to the Fold) had some tremendously useful and positive feedback. I elected to not use some of it, but I took her advice more than I ignored it, in big part because so much of it was so good, and so attuned to the goals of the work in question. She saw what I was shooting for, and was trying to help me hit that target all the more completely. Her experience was at least as broad as mine.

But there's a great deal of feedback that has nothing to do with the work, and everything to do with the person giving it trying to validate their viewpoint.

Matt cited an example on his end, where he and his work got labeled "elitist" and "pretentious"* by an acquaintance, something he was able to explain by noting that said individual had had (by his own admission, no less) a narrower life experience. Advice from such a source fairly advertises itself as being biased in the worst way; it's like asking a friend for advice about choosing a new car and having them reply "I hate driving."

A source like that is easy to ignore. What's harder to discount is advice from what seems like a source that is experienced and intelligent, but at the same time not attuned to the kind of risk you're attempting to take. If someone says "This is great work but it'll never find an audience in this form," and they seem to know what they're talking about, it's hard to dismiss that and soldier on in your own way.

For all you know, they may well be right; the experiment you are undertaking may well be a failure (as per Jacques Barzun's notes about experimentation in art). But they may also simply be speaking out of well-meaning ignorance. The only way to know the difference is to assume the risk of failure yourself.

* I'm saving a discussion of those scare words for another post.


Tags: criticism critics editing Welcome to the Fold writers writing




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