I can lead a horse to water…

I had an upsetting interaction tonight. I saw a blog post where this journal had straight up told this lady that they didn’t want to take her book reviews any more because they were badly written. He didn’t even want to try to edit them, he just outright refused her work. She posted the review in question and had hundreds of comments from people – her fans I guess – assuring her that the editor didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, and she was an AWESOME writer!

She’s obviously smart and there were parts that intrigued me but my God, the thing WAS badly written. She completely failed to use proper punctuation, had run-on sentences and used a lot of overwrought and flowery language that seemed just a little off the mark.

So I wrote a comment suggesting that maybe she could seek other feedback about her work, or take a writing class, and maybe consider if there was room for improvement in aspects of her writing. I didn’t WANT to write the comment. I thought as I sat down to write it that it was a waste of time because she wasn’t going to listen to me because she didn’t want to hear it. But I thought that it was such a shame if her work went nowhere because of punctuation and vocabulary and structural flaws overshadowing the ideas, that I’d like to try.

Of course she replied saying that was her writing “style” and that she knew she was a very good writer. She had taken writing classes “as a kid” and worked as a professional editor (that I find hard to believe!)

So I tried again, a little more pointed this time, that maybe considering feedback was a good thing, and improper punctuation isn’t a matter of “style” for prose, and that if I was her editor I would have had to rewrite every sentence. Again, more assertions that her writing is top-notch and that she is perfectly capable of hearing the truth but she only disliked the editor’s approach.

How can you say you are open to “the truth” when the only truth you will consider is the one you want to hear? I mean, geez, it’s like giving someone a hint like “Wow, in summer I sure find it hard to stay cool. I reapply my antiperspirant after I walk/bike to work just because it’s so hot out” and they reply “Well I always smell like a daisy” and you say “Hm, really? I think everyone has to make an extra effort during heat waves” and they say “I smell awesome!” so you finally yell “YOU HAVE BODY ODOR” and then they get all offended at how “mean” you are. I re-posted her last comment with corrected punctuation and it was like 11 corrections in 3 sentences.

Anyway, one of her fans called me the most arrogant prick in the world for my trouble. If I was insisting that I was awesome at math and someone showed me 11 errors in 3 computations I hope I’d be mature enough to think wow, I better bone up on this, or start double-checking my work, or something; not double down and insist that doing math wrong was “my style.”

Why I get emotionally invested in throwing pearls before swine (metaphorically) I don’t know. I guess I try to think how I would feel in that situation but I guess being open to improvement and taking feedback are skills in professionalism and professional development and we’re not all there. This gal is probably only in her 20s for all I know.

The irony is that in wasting my time with her, I was procrastinating on a paper that I’m in the middle of editing to the tune of $50 an hour. Next time I’ll not work for free for some stranger on the Internet, haha. Just sad that I wasted my time and sad that she is totally deluded about her writing.

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9 thoughts on “I can lead a horse to water…

  1. Did you deliberately misunderstood what Candice said? She pointed out that she could take the truth (she can) but disliked the unprofessional ‘bordering on cruel’ approach of the email dismissing her. If you read that, you can’t fail to have noticed that it WAS unprofessional. As for your assertion that every one of her sentence should be rewritten, I strongly disagree with it and so does she. So do other people. Our opinions are no less valid than yours. I also find it distasteful you should question the fact she has worked as an editor – calling people liars without proof is really not clever. I agree with one thing you said: in future, focus on your own work.

    • I wasn’t calling her a liar; that was a colloquial phrase much like “I find it hard to believe that Trump is president”. She wouldn’t have been successful as an editor anywhere I have worked because of the issues with punctuation, sentence structure, et cetera.

      Anyway, I am truly sorry that she was hurt. To me, having my writing rejected because my ideas are terrible would be crushing; having it rejected for style and editing problems would just mean that I’d need to work on those. It’s like the difference between being rejected for a job because your resume doesn’t look good versus not having the experience or skills the employer wants. I still believe it’s a shame that she can’t be open to that feedback.

  2. Spelling and punctuation are correct or incorrect. That’s not a matter of opinion; that’s a fact. It’s incredible to me to assert that “she can take the truth” when the only truth she can ‘take’ is, “your writing is great as-is.”

    I’d love to know how they could have written an email telling her that they didn’t want her work in a way that you and her other fans would have deemed professional.

    • There’s a difference between appreciating language and being a snob about grammar. The debate is in the question of what entails “successful communication.” And there are two schools of thought on this.

      Prescriptive grammar – which is what “grammar snobs” champion – says that there’s such a thing as one true, honest, pure form of a language and that only that version is correct or acceptable.

      Descriptive grammar, on the other hand, argues that however a language is being used to communicate effectively is correct – because that is the basic purpose of language.

      And while both schools are accepted forms of linguistic thought, it’s important to note that any time we create a hierarchy by positioning one thing as “better” than another, we’re being oppressive. ( excerpts from “Why Grammar Snobbery Has No Place in the Movement” May 2, 2014 by Melissa A. Fabello a English teacher )
      http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/05/grammar-snobbery/#.WWISmvnf5kx.facebook

      As a reader content means more to me than proper punctuation and syntax when communicating ideas, thoughts and opinion.

  3. Grammar “snobbery” might have no place in a casual chat online, but if you’re trying to get your work used professionally then it’s a different matter all together. Of course it needs to be on point. It’s a shame she couldn’t take constructive criticism.

  4. Right or wrong. Fact or not Fact. My opinion, your opinion. Your interactions and advice to her, to a point. were justified. To a point. Now you, in writing your article ALL about this interaction in all its details speaks to your OWN character. We all sense the passive aggressive stance and hear the condescension dripping from almost every word you have written. Its distasteful and unprofessional.

    You don’t have to kiss her ass but you should be civil. This discourse in your blog here is not civil. You knew she would read it and it would hurt her. It is called being a bully. And yes, she is fighting back now, by letting her followers know you are being one by simply having us read your own words.

    You may say she needs to grow up but frankly I think the whole damn world does to a degree. And you are part of that world. So grow up a little today. I am not trying to shame you as I don’t think you easily shame. I just want you to think of the A to B to the C of your actions when you put them into play. I try to every day and I may mistakes every damn day probably. You are not infallible in your thought process like you believe. Thanks for listening. * I am now imagining you rolling your eyes. I do that sort of thing once in awhile, imagine that is… 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments. A couple of thoughts in return:
      I don’t write this blog as a professional and I write it for myself, not for any audience, so yes, it’s gloves-off unfiltered, pissy, angry, sad, condescending, bitchy, or whatever.

      No, I didn’t know she would read this. I had left a comment on her post (in response to the “most arrogant prick in the world” accusation) that I hadn’t meant to be hurtful, and was sorry if I had done so, and was blocked from her blog immediately afterward. I would assume that meant she didn’t want to read any more from me, not that she would follow me here where I’m writing not to her but about her, and then send her league of defending fans to read this to prove how “mean” I am.

      Finally I am not infallible, obviously, nor do I believe I am. I absolutely believe in lifelong learning and in improving through feedback. I have no problem accepting corrections from someone and if I feel defensive or upset I think that’s my emotional issue to deal with, or to assertively address the way feedback was given with my boss.

      That’s where we come to the crux of the matter in my opinion… her fans can say the rejection letter was mean, or that my posts are mean, but despite her claiming that she is open to the truth, I perceive that the only “truth” she can accept is that she is a great writer, which is a kind of prideful arrogance. I am sure you and her fans don’t perceive her as such, more a sensitively wounded artist, but honestly for her to have professionalism as a writer she would need to be more open. Calling any and all criticism unprofessional, bullying, condescending, etc, is just an avoidance strategy.

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