Thursday, January 12, 2012


In reading Julie Salamon's biography of Wendy Wasserstein, Wendy and the Lost Boys, I came across this:

"[Joseph] Heller gave Wendy something more important, perhaps, than any single lesson he might have imparted in class or perceptive comment he might have scribbled on a paper. He made her feel that she had something special to offer. This endorsement was a powerful antidote to the sense of failure that weighed on her ..."

I've seen this idea expressed over and over in writer's-journey stories, and I imagine it's common in the wider range of success stories as well. So many of us have gotten a boost to our spirits from someone who said, "I believe in you. You have what it takes."

Constructive criticism is valuable. But we also need our mentors, our cheerleaders, the people who stick by us when the going gets tough and we don't know if we can keep going.

Some days, a well-timed compliment works wonders.


  1. I'd welcome a well-timed compliment most any day. ^_^ But I know what you mean. Being awarded a SCBWI WIP grant gave me a boost that has been a touchstone for my darkest, full-of-doubt moments. But I also need those cheerleaders, too. Speaking of which, I raise my pom poms to you, Jenn.

  2. I went to a movie this afternoon and there was a little commercial at the beginning about a boy who sneaks onto the stage at a piano concert and starts playing the ABC song before the pianist comes on. The parents are mortified, and then the pianist walks onto the stage and starts playing with the boy on the piano, turning the simple song into something amazing as they both have fun. The title of it was called "Encouragement". The parents were thrilled. Things like that make me smile. Encouragement goes a long, long way. I need cheerleaders. A lot.

  3. Angelina: And I raise my pom poms to you! Your comments on my blog are always a nice thoughtful boost.
    Grants and awards often help with that validation. Ultimately, as much as we know we need to rely on our own inner reserves, it does help to have our peers recognize our work.

    Eagle: Hope you're having a great day! :-)

    Michelle: That's a great example. Looks like encouragement is the topic of the week!
    And I always find your blog inspiring, by the way.

  4. You're so right, Jenn. I love constructive criticism, but often people are so focused on helping you fix what's wrong, they forget to tell you what's right.

    A new person in our crit group sent me a message a few months ago, saying they'd been back through the group archives and had really enjoyed a story of mine. I was so tickled to hear someone thought my work was "very entertaining". Their praise gave me the push to revise that story and submit it, and now it's being published. Without that compliment it would still be languishing in the archives.

    PS Glad you mentioned in the comments on the LJ site about this mirror blog. I've been trying to post comments over there with no luck. There are no options for posting available any more except as "Anonymous" and even then it spat the dummy at me and said there was an error in the script or something. I'll have to remember to come here to read instead in future!

    1. Ooh, I just noticed Blogger finally allows me to "reply!" LJ has had its ups and downs, although I still have a sizable audience there, so now I just post in both places.

      As for your original point: yes, that's why a lot of crit groups use the "sandwich method:--beginning and ending each critique with a note of the piece's strengths.