ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

You Are Not Your Thing —

Entry written on August 9th.

Philosophy Chat Time. These never go well for weblog entries, but it can’t hurt.

I have a lot of friends who show me stuff they’ve worked on, or intend to send out there, or which is out there and they want me to review. I get sent a lot of stuff from my friends because they want me to see it, and I’m always open to checking stuff out.

One problem is that if something isn’t so good, I let them know. I’m not entirely into the whole “encouragement” thing where you lie and say something is good and it isn’t. I think this isn’t being a good friend. I’ll certainly give my reasons why I think it’s not so good and what I’d do to improve it, of course. But still, it can be a bit surprising to some of my buddies when something shows up and I say it’s sub-par.

The difference of opinion in here is whether your thing is you. I don’t think it is. Your thing is something you made and it’s likely it reflects a lot of what you are, but it also reflects how you go about making things. And sometimes that’s not so hot.

My one thing I will do if I don’t like a thing is to not mention it at all, that is, not officially come down on it anywhere. I figure that’s the least I can do. So perhaps that’s an error or slight of omission, but we’re talking about friends here.

The flip side of this is that when I see something I like, I really go off about it, sometimes for weeks. I shove your creation in the face of everyone I see, I write reviews and promote it, and I constantly throw people towards the item if I think they’ll be improved by it. I do this all the time, serving as some go between between neat people and neat crap.

I’ve sometimes had to deal with the cold shoulder for a few weeks or months, but I’d rather that be the case than for someone to walk out into the wide world thinking a project has my seal of approval and completely support. And when people hear me praise something of theirs, they know it’s the real deal.

This has been another Philosophy Chat.

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  1. Which suddenly explains your silence toward my “iDildo” patent …

  2. AngiePen says:

    I do the same thing on the fiction side. [nod] I don’t bullshit about writing, ever. I’m never falsely supportive and there are a lot of stories I just don’t comment on at all because I couldn’t honestly give unmixed praise. And if someone asks me to critique their story I make sure that’s what they really want, because sometimes people asking for a critique (or a “beta” as it’s called these days) are really just looking for praise and reassurance whether they’re consciously aware of it or not.

    I’m mostly into fanfiction now but I got into critiquing back when while doing workshops with other writers who were either professionally published or trying to be. It doesn’t do any good to tell someone that something’s just wonderful if an editor is likely to spit on it and send them a fifth-generation xerox rejection slip. I’m a brutally thorough critiquer and I’ve offended a few people over the years who thought they’d be getting a pat on the head and chocolate. [shrug] Writing’s too important to me to feed people BS about it, and I agree with you that saying something’s great when it’s not isn’t the act of a good friend, or even a decent person.