Some people do jobs where they are continually assessed; others have fairly simple lives where they barely receive any critique whatsoever. Writing is one particular vocation where continual surprise assessment is a part of everyday life. I know other professions receive this type of regular assessment also, for example I can sympathise with teachers who are always planning for Ofsted visits or apprentices who are always studying for their next career stage. There is no rest for you. Now ask yourself what could be worse.
Okay, we have assessments and appraisals at work. From my experience, this is how it normally pans out. You take a visit to your Manager’s office and nervously perch on the edge of the seat opposite him or her. They glare back at you, not giving away their next move and you hope that beneath your sweating palms and nervous stomach that they will shortly break a smile. That is the reality of a workplace appraisal. As a writer, this goes one step further. Any day at anytime you could wake up and receive a review. It is not only a critique of your work; it is an opinion of your performance, a criticism of the love that you poured into your story. Someone, somewhere has not only assessed you, they have done it publicly for the whole world to see.
I can tell you how it feels.
Remember back to when you were fifteen or sixteen and you were awaiting your exam results. It feels a bit like that. You would’ve been excited to know your results but apprehensive of the content. Yes you may have done well in your mock exams; yes you may have revised but was it enough? Did you miss something or did you simply miss the point? Yes you may think you’ve passed but in your heart you have been toiling about everything. Maybe you should’ve included this, that or the other. Did you write enough or too much? Through clenched hands you might be shaking as you try to open the envelope. As you open it you close your eyes, not daring to look. Maybe you are thinking of opening one eye first in the hope of softening the blow. Before you open that eye you become aware of a presence, there are hundreds of people stood behind you and then your disappointment grows. They saw your results before you saw them. Everyone knows what you got, everyone knows if you did well or failed. Everyone knows your strengths, your flaws and everyone has an opinion. Until you look at the results for yourself, you don’t know if their smiles are mocking you or congratulating you. As for the actual results, that never mattered. The feeling is what mattered more than anything; the nervous feeling that is like no other.
Imagine going through that ‘feeling’ when you’re not expecting it. It could be everyday, sometimes twice a day, it might not happen for a month. Sometimes the results are pleasing; other times they make you want to bury your head and hide. But life goes on and who knows when your next critic/reviewer will strike.
For critics, I don’t expect you to bear us in mind. You’re having your say, performing a function but hopefully, now you know how we feel. Sometimes your comments make no sense to us, other times they help us to improve. Sometimes when your comments are pleasing they make our day, sometimes when they rip us to pieces they rip us to pieces in the process – temporarily I mean.
To all the writers out there who are just about to check out their reviews, congratulations or commiserations? Whatever is said though, ‘don’t give up, give more. Keep giving more.’ There are some people out there who really want your ‘more’ and you owe it to them to paste a huge smile on your face and continue typing.
Remember, for us, every day is an exam results day and it will remain so to the end of our lives when we no longer care.
Happy writing. X