Monday, January 31, 2005


You need a few characterisitcs to be a sucessful writer and they may not be what you think. You need discipline, perseverance, and the ability to process criticism. And it would be nice if you could string a few words together that follow some kind of grammatical standard... *g*

Editors can have it tough, mainly because they have to deal with writers or would-be writers. Writing can be such a personal form of expression (even in technical writing) that any form of correction can be taken as a personal attack.

When I'm asked to edit someone's work, the review process can sometimes be bogged down in debate. Instead of personally evaluating each comment, the author will try to justify the original version of every edit ("No no... We can't change that. I wrote that like that because of blahblahblah, so that has to stay that way"). Dude... you asked for my opinion, so here's my opinion.

There's a reason I don't edit student papers, especially in literature studies. There's a feeling among Lit students that their papers are supposed to be vague and unclear, as if it were hiding gems of insight that are better implied than actually stated. This is not completely the fault of the students because their teachers are the ones encouraging this practice of non-modern writing.

But that's a beef for another day...

I remember my first class at the Université de Sherbrooke (in the Professional Writing program): we were 20 writing students, all of us confident in our superior writing skills. When we received our first assignment back from the teacher, expecting it to have been well-received. Instead there was criticism scrawled in red all over our masterpieces! The gambit of emotions that each person was going through could clearly been seen on our faces: smug confidence, growing shock and dismay (as we counted the number of corrections), giving way to anger and indignation.

I'll never forget that day: the day we thought we were had reached the summit of our writing prowess, only to realize we were standing on a speed bump.

But we as writers need to learn how to accept, evaluate, and process criticism if we want to grow and refine our craft. It's important to be able to take a step back and evaluate our writing on its own merits (or demerits) and accept that it could probably be improved.

That doesn't mean we have to take every criticism and incorporate it into our writing! There are plenty of Yahoos out there will ill-informed opinions (and loud too), but we can use our own judgement to evaluate where these criticisms are coming from. Is this a person I respect? Is this person concerned about the quality of my work, or is he/she using my work as a way to put me down? Taking a step back, is this criticism applicable and would it really make my work better?

These are all valid questions, and going through the process of weeding out good suggestions from bad suggestions will certainly make you a better writer in the end.

But, as a writer, you have to be willing. You have to be willing to admit that there's always room for improvement (which is a humbling thought) before you can accept such criticism. Until then, you run the risk of getting stuck in your own perceived greatness and will evolve at a much slower rate.

When you are ready to bring your writing to the next level, find an editor that you trust and trust your editor. It's not a sign of weakness to have your work checked by a trained editor who can spot trouble areas that you cannot see, being too close to your own work.

If anything, it's a sign of strength and confidence in your talent as a Creator, as a Writer, and as an Artist.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

No Small Parts

A few weeks ago, I was saddened to hear that Jerry Orbach did the big Exit Stage Left (pursued by a bear). I'm a pretty big Law and Order fan, but I was looking forward to see what Orbach would do after leaving the show. I was especially hoping to be able to go to New York to see him on stage, since he's such a song and dance man on broadway.

Alas and alack, missed opportunities, and all that jazz.

If you've been following Law and Order over the years, you'll know that all the roles have been played by multiple people as the seasons pass. The roles have been steady though, so you can always refer to them as the two detectives, the DA, the assistant DA, and the main lawyer guy, the psychologist, and a plethora of judges and defense lawyers.

I think Jerry Orbach cornered the market on the detective role enough that most people will refer to his part as "The Lenny Guy". The other detective role might be referred to as "The Chris Noth guy".

I figure the camp will be divided on who would be the better prosecuting lawyer, Moriarity or Waterson (I think Jack McCoy is more entertaining to watch). Each actor brought his own spin to that role, so they're not interchangable. His sidekick, however, seems to be pretty generic.

But in the end, Lenny will live forever.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Read'em and Weep

Some of my poker buddies just got back from their Christmas vacations yesterday, but I'm still too sick to welcome them back. Drat. My energy levels are getting better though, so it's encouraging. Slowly but surely.

I was relavtively recently introduced to the joys of poker, but my poker-face skills need work (as illustrated by this comic strip). I'm doing better the more I practice though, so now I'm either breaking even or just below breaking even. I need to get back into a game though... I want to hone my skills so that I can hold my own in the Annual Male Prosperity Ritual (a poker game) at the Kaleidoscope pagan festival.

Still... It's all in good fun. It's more about psyching out your oppoonents and trashing talking than it is about counting the chips at the end of the round (and humming Kenny Rogers' tunes).

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Back on my Feet, Still Wobbly

After four days of feeling wretched, I'm finally more or less on my feet again. I've still got a nasty cough that rattles in my chest and gives me a throbbing headache each time, but my energy level is back up and that means I can now go and run my errands.

It's amazing how, when I'm sick, I can't remember how it felt to be well and having the energy and stamina to do all the normal things in life. After a couple of being weakened, I started re-examining my life and trying to determine what I could still do in this weakened state.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Trip of the Magi

A good chunk of this holiday season was spent behind the wheel, which is going to be a fact of life when your partner's family lives in Toronto and your own family lives in Quebec city (we logged over 2200 km on the rental). Six hours to Toronto (plus 4 hours to Perry Sound), 12 hours getting to Quebec city (with a stopover in Montreal), and three hours coming back to Montreal. I'm just about done with long-distance treks for awhile, thanks.

Overall, it was enjoyable to spend Christmas with a large family and I got my first Christmas stocking. Ms. Carotte's family does the whole stocking thing where each person stuffs gifts into a stocking for everone else. Is it a Quebecois thing to not do the Christmas stocking exchange, or was it just my family?

New Year's Eve was spent with friends, drinking egg nog and watching the ball drop in NYC. Ms. Carotte's wasn't feeling well, so she went to bed early.

The next day though... oof. Ms. Carotte's came down with a nasty bit of flu and then I got it a day later. This is always the way of things: today, I was supposed to go to the Toyota dealership and get my 2005 Matrix, but with the state I'm in now, that'll have to wait until the room stops spinning.