After a week, he calls home and asks how his cat is faring.
“Cat’s dead,” his brother blurts.
“What? It’s what? That’s no way to tell someone their beloved pet died! Ya gotta work up to it.”
His brother, eager to learn, asks how one might do that.
“Well, something like ‘He climbed that old oak tree the other day, and he wouldn’t come down, and we tried everything and eventually the fire department came and got him down but he caught a cold and I’m very sorry but the vet couldn’t save him.’ Something like that. Build up to it, don’t just blurt it.”
Having taught his lesson, he moved on to other concerns.
“Well, she climbed that old oak tree the other day . . . ”
Blurting is Hurting
Rosanne Bane uses brain science to teach us why blurting feedback to an unprepared writer is the single greatest cause of writer’s block and writing anxiety. She teaches us that it’s not the maturity of the writer but of the writing which determines what kind of feedback is valuable.
If your goal is to add value, know those things. (If your goal is to spout off and look smart, go away.)
What Was the Question? Oh Yes:
When is it Appropriate to Offer Unsolicited Criticism of Someone’s Art?
Only the writer can determine what kind of criticism or feedback they’re ready for. There are 7 levels of feedback, and as brain science tells us, it’s the level of writing, not the maturity of the writer which determines what level will work.
Level 1 feedback is praise. It’s the only form of feedback which it’s polite to offer without being asked. (Did you know that there are two absolutely acceptable ways to interrupt a public speaker? One is to shout “Louder!” — they don’t know you can’t hear them. The other? Spontaneous applause.)
I’m still confused by the concept that anyone thinks it’s good manners to approach a total stranger and say hey, you made a bunch of mistakes.
Do you walk up to total strangers on the street and tell them “That’s not how to parallel park” or “your dog should follow here, not there” ?
Is it because they wrote a book, and that makes them fair game for any passerby to criticize? Or because it’s online, and not in real life?
If someone has not asked for feedback, in most cultures it’s considered bad manners to volunteer it.
Also, if your goal is to help, consider learning the psychology of persuasion before attempting to persuade. Approaching a total stranger who is proud of their art, and saying “You did it wrong” is precisely the wrong way to persuade.
(“Doesn’t bother me!” is hardly a reason. We don’t get to decide how others react to what they rightfully perceive as rudeness.)
Next time a “helpful” reader points out typos in your book, send them here.