Monday, September 12, 2011
"Does this dress make me look fat?"
"Did you like the casserole I made for dinner tonight?"
"What do you think of the first three chapters?"
Whether I'm getting dressed in the morning, trying to decide whether to keep or toss a new recipe, or beginning a new writing project, I often seek the counsel of others, because it is virtually impossible for me to be objective about something I am really close to. When I look in the mirror, I still see the overweight teenager I was in high school. I am not picky about food, but I don't want to spend a week eating leftovers of a meal that the rest of my family doesn't care for. I am relatively new to fiction writing, so it is essential for me to get feedback from more experienced authors.
The challenge is finding people whose own agenda doesn't interfere with your own. Once I was in a long-term relationship with a man who also had body issues; he was displeased anytime I wore something that wasn't fitted at the waist. Left to their own devices, my children would eat nothing but pizza and potato chips, so the fact that they aren't crazy about a new dish doesn't mean it wouldn't taste good to someone else. The heroine in my novel might remind a contest judge or literary agent of someone she has problems with in her personal life, and this might taint her opinion of my work regardless of its overall quality.
Even doctors are merely expressing opinions when it comes to a diagnosis or a course of treatment. That's why it is sometimes necessary to ask for second, or even third opinion, in order to make the best decision regarding medical care.
It seems, then, a completely objective perspective is something like a unicorn. Hard to find by if it exists at all. So what is a girl to do?
Clearly, it is useful to enlist the help of others. But it is important to seek opinions from a broad spectrum of people: family, friends, professionals. Then, as much as possible, we must find ways to step away from our work so that we can view it as objectively as we possibly can. For example, when I am learning a new piece on the piano, I record my practice periodically and listen to the recording to help me evaluate my progress. When I am involved in the playing, I hear what I THINK I am playing; the recording helps me to hear the way the music actually SOUNDS. Similarly, when I am revising a novel, I print my pages in a different font than the one I use for drafting; that helps me to see the words with a fresh perspective.
But ultimately? We must remember that the only perspective that matters is our own. Because everything else is just another person's opinion.
Author: Pam Asberry