On Sharing Your Work and Avoiding Being a Clueless Jerk

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On Sharing Your Work and Avoiding Being a Clueless Jerk

Post by paravil » October 5th, 2010, 5:43 pm

I hate watching kids sing.

Don’t get me wrong--I love kids. I have two of my own and they are the world to me. But there are few things more uncomfortable than sitting through a nasally rendition of “Paparazzi” sung by a vamping eight-year-old; or worse, an emotionally overwrought Celine Dion solo sung by a kid whose strongest emotional reaction to date was the hissy fit thrown in response to the “no Lady Gaga” injunction laid down by her father.

But my hatred of watching kids sing has just as much to do with the parents. I’m sure that the poor kid loves singing. The problem is that the parent, too proud of the kid’s still-germinating seed of talent, assumes that everybody else (1) cares, and (2) wants to see how talented their kid is. As a result, we are not only subjected to the torture of the performance, but are forced to lie to the parent about how good it was and how much we enjoyed it and how talented little So-and-So is.

Writing may be a private process but it is a very public act. For a lot of us, it is something that we are hesitant to confess to. Letting other people in on our work and asking for their opinion is never easy, but as personal as it is, writing necessitates an audience. What’s so difficult is that the process of finding that audience turns us into a composite of that poor singing kid and her clueless parent. Of course we think we’re good, and we eagerly shove our pages under other people’s noses assuming that they (1) care, and (2) want to see how talented we are.

This leaves us in the precarious position of potentially looking like a clueless jerk. Like the singing kid, we eagerly share our work with the best of intentions, unaware of how we appear to everyone else. We try to give something to the world that we think is beneficial, only to be rejected, ignored, or avoided. This inevitably leaves us questioning ourselves, our talent, our ambition, and our worth. So how do we combat the confusion and frustration? How can we balance being realistic and idealistic? How do we avoid looking like clueless jerks?

As with all tough questions, the answers are both simple and complex: We work hard without whining. We set aside any preconceived notions of how good we are. We share our work without being presumptuous or pushy. We accept rejection like a man (or woman, as the case may be). We vent our frustration privately to our spouses, family, and friends, resisting the urge to rant on Facebook (which is really, let’s face it, just a thinly veiled cry for help). Most importantly, we learn to be self-aware.

The sad thing about that poor singing kid is that she doesn’t know she’s bad. She doesn’t realize that you don’t start out being a good singer; that singing well takes time and work. And as long as there’s a host of people willing to lie to her and tell her she’s great, she will never realize these things. We can avoid being that poor kid by remaining self-aware enough to stay realistic, and we can avoid being that clueless parent by coaching ourselves to be better and not giving in to the temptation to believe that everything we write is worth reading. The fact is most of it sucks. If it didn’t, we’d be published already. It is our job to make it not suck.

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