Monday, September 12, 2011

Getting An Objective Perspective

"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


Lindy said...

Well my friend, it looks like obejective perspective was a good subject for you after all. :-) Great post! Wonderful advice. - Lindy

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, Lindy! It was fun once I figured out what the heck the phrase meant. :-)

KendallGrey said...

I agree. It's great to get a variety of feedback, but in the end, we have to make the decisions about what to take and what to leave behind. With writing especially, there's no right or wrong, and that sometimes complicates life instead of making it easier. :-)

Pam Asberry said...

You are so right, Kendall; writing, like many art forms, is highly subjective, so there really IS no such thing as an "objective perspective." Which does make like more complicated, but also very colorful!

Julee J. Adams said...

Good job! I'm proud of your progress, that you can take what you know from your musical career and apply it to your writing and life.

You've heard me tell the tale of how difficult it was that some people hate my writing style. I read (or tried to read) a book that was published by one of those critics and it was painful for me. Probably similar to what she felt reading my work. While you have to look at your work with fresh eyes, realize it is still your work. You have to be happy.

The different font thing is great--it's a great help for me, too. Keep it up and get back to work!

Denise said...

At the end of the day, if you're happy that's enough.

Anonymous said...

Great post. New or different perspectives are not always objective. It's good to get fresh perspectives, but weed out people who do damage. Find people you trust to be honest but kind. We can send and receive the same message 100's of different ways. And the wonderful thing is what works for some may not work for you.


Tami Brothers said...

Great post, Pam. And very introspective. I think you are well on your way to figuring this out. :)


Pam Asberry said...

I am always looking for those kinds of connections, Julee, and they are there if I pay attention. And I'm working, I'm working - I'm just not writing at the moment. But I will, and soon!

Pam Asberry said...

I'm not there yet, Denise. But I'm working on it. :-)

Pam Asberry said...

What you're saying is true, Sia. I know I tailor my teaching methods to my students; some kids need a figurative whomp up the side of the head, where others burst into tears if I merely look at them sideways. I guess we adults need to seek out critics who are appreciative of our individual learning styles, too. Thanks for pointing that out!

Pam Asberry said...

Thanks, Tami. I sure hope so. Sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake, but I don't give up easily! :-)

Debbie Herbert said...

Hello! Sat across from you at the August GRWA and just now getting around to checking out your blog. Good job! Ah, the food looks good too. :)

Debbie Herbert

Pam Asberry said...

Thank you so much, Debbie. It was a pleasure to meet you. Hope you will come back and visit often! :-)