“Why is it the words we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words we write for others?” (Sean Connery in Finding Forrester)
A few years ago my son played on a baseball team that didn’t have a coach, it had a second guesser. He was one of those Dads who never really played baseball but that never stopped him from criticizing anything that kept his son (who wasn’t very good) from being the star of the team. When the league board needed a manager for one of the teenage teams, we reluctantly nominated him, he sure talked a good game. Well, not so much. He never taught anything, he never told kids what to do ahead of time, but he sure could criticize after a play. It was kind of lost year for the kids and my son made the full time switch to golf after the season.
I love being taught, even at my age, I love to learn and I always will, but I HATE being second guessed. Whether it is my writing, work or a creative project, nothing makes me climb a wall faster than someone who smirks and says, “You should have.” (Let me state this for the record, I DON’T KNOW HOW TO should have!!) I’ve had it happen on my new garden project and am enduring it in one of my school classes. It’s a required writing class and I need to get two more weeks in (a week and half, actually!) before I get total and permanent writer’s block.
If you think it is annoying trying to read with someone over your shoulder, you ought to try writing for someone who doesn’t teach and grades with a criteria no one understands. The phrase, “This too shall pass” has been on my lips constantly as this class turns my greatest creative joy into a dreary task. Failed writers make horrible teachers. Every word I type, every key I punch leads to second guessing. If this is getting an education, excuse me if I feel like a remedial student. It is impossible to take something instinctual and make it mechanical without crushing a little bit of spirit along the way.
My suggestion, if you know something about a creative field, offer your suggestions before the work is started, not after. And, if you must criticize a work, make it clear you are not criticizing the entire work but only trying to help improve a portion of it.
Teaching is better than criticizing.