Twice recently I was put in an uncomfortable position: once by a co-worker and once on MySpace.
The co-worker had written some children's stories and wanted my "honest opinion." The person on MySpace had published some material in a magic magazine and also asked for an honest assessment, "no holding back, good or bad."
Some people at work had already told my co-worker that she should try to get her stuff published because it was excellent. It was obvious to me that what she wanted was another affirmation, not an honest critique. If I would have given her an honest critique it would have pissed her off. I would have loved to, though, because it also would have made her a better writer, had she been willing to listen. The books were rhyming and it was clear that things like meter had never been explained to her. She's a bright lady; a quick lesson would have done worlds of good. But she didn't want an honest opinion. She wanted to be told she was already good.
It was a similar situation with our published magician. He had gotten heaps of praise on some MySpace magic groups for stilted prose, highly derivative magic effects and a lead-off bit that was incomprehensible and would have been much clearer had he given some (any) examples. Did he want my honest opinion? I don't think so. What gives me that idea? He accepted the praise on the MySpace groups as if it were his due without question, and without asking what, to me, would be the obvious follow-up: "Wasn't there anything I could have done better?"
This seeming unwillingness to critique even in the name of improving one's craft does no one any favors. (And yes, I'm guilty too. In case 1 I told the lady what she wanted to hear. In case 2 I avoided leaving any feedback and the gentleman hasn't inquired further.) It leaves some with an undeserved sense of accomplishment and others with few avenues of improvement. I've given performances and asked, nay begged, for a crumb, for something to improve, and have only gotten what the above people got: hollow assurances that I was wonderful.
So I ask this: If you ask me for honest feedback, from this point onward please expect it, and accept it in the spirit in which it is offered. If I think I can help you improve I will try to do so. If (and only if) I think you were wonderful, that's what you'll hear. And if I ask for your opinion, please let me know what you think. If I ask, I value your opinion.
So...what is your opinion of this blog entry?