The Writer’s Well podcast posed this great question – What’s your impossible? It’s wonderful for creatives to ponder this. Some of us can answer it immediately. My career ‘impossible’ is probably the same as every other writer working now – to sell a story for a TV series. I’d like to say though that unlike many many other people, I have no desire to be part of the production or even attend a premier, I just want the damn money! Show me the money!
My personal impossible is to live in Europe for 12 months. Sigh… sadly my career ‘impossible’ is looking a lot more possible than my personal one right now!
When my son hit his teens I explained to him my idea of what my role in his life would be moving forward. He was a good kid but I’m a big believer in transparency so I just wanted to pre-empt any shenanigans. There would be, I explained, none of this “under my roof” nonsense. I’m his mother forever and no matter where he is in the world, no matter his age, I will always be his mother and will tell always him the truth. Like it or not.
That’s my lane. But I will never talk smack about him behind his back; Anything I have to say about him I will say to him. I’m happy to say he’s still a “good kid” and we only have the occasional conference. And it’s a two way street. He knows I value his opinions and I want to know, with love, when I’m being a twat, too. Hubby and I have a similar relationship. Honesty is so crucial in every relationship but any constructive feedback must be delivered with love and a block of chocolate.
Basically we’re each other’s canary in the coal mine. If I’m being an idiot, if I’m over eating, if I’m complaining, if I’m crabby, one of my canaries will start singing. (I know that’s not what canaries in coal mines do, just ignore my mixed metaphors.) I’m so grateful- imagine not having someone who tells you the truth!
Back in the day, I always went out with at least one good girlfriend and we would critique each other’s outfit and make adjustments where necessary. I trusted those women; Tara, Louisa, Shazza. They never gave me bad advice about an outfit. About other things, absolutely they did, but on outfits they were very serious. Everyone should have friends or family who are close enough to give you a shit sandwich and really say it from a place of love and wanting the best for you.
But oh, therein lies the quandary…recognising what’s coming from love and what’s decidedly not can be challenging when you’re not in a great headspace. And offering advice in that spirit can be dangerous. Our niece was recently given some very well meaning advice from a family member who I believe was coming from both a place of some expertise and love and had her best interests at heart but I don’t know if it was appreciated as such. It can be so hard to hear when you’re in a rough spot, especially that old chestnut, unsolicited parenting advice!
For writers and creatives ‘advice’ often takes the form of reviews or feedback from editors or beta readers. And often this advice comes after literally thousands of hours of work on the project. I’m a huge fan of getting advice during the writing process by posting on here, in my critique group, or simply sending some chapters to my small group of friends and family who are kind enough to read my crap.
I thrive on feedback and I have learned over the years to sort the ‘well-meaning but wrong variety’ and the ‘mean and nasty stuff’ from the advice that’s on point both personally and for my writing. Trick is to find people who love you or care about you at least. Or find someone who doesn’t stand to gain anything either way from their advice and has no agenda.
I tend to be a little too willing to offer feedback to my loved ones and the people in my critique group. For me, like offering food, advice is how I show I really care for you. I’ll never let you go out in something unbecoming. I’ll tell you if your story needs some work. I got you.