Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.
Better to be silent and thought a fool then to speak and remove all doubt.
In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking.
I haven’t blogged since last week because not only did I find myself a bit worn out by the writing of my own posts and following everyone else’s excellent commentaries, but also because … I couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to share. Then, too, over the past few days when I do engage in various conversations, I find myself putting my foot in my mouth—and swallowing.
I feel the constant tension between being a writer, whose occupation is to heap together words in the hopes of communicating something meaningful, and a Christian who should be “swift to hear, slow to speak.”
The subject I find tripping me up now is, oddly enough after the Christian Fandom tour, reviewing and critiquing. I expended my best efforts recently on the critique of a first chapter for someone I’ve never critted before, and he reciprocated on the first part (about 5 chapters) of my own work. The result was … a near disaster, and a great shock on both our parts, I’m guessing. We wound up declining most of the suggestions the other offered because, frankly, neither of us seemed to understand the other’s vision or “voice” for our respective stories. This made me very sad, because not only did I try hard to give an honest but fair critique—and I like to think I’m rather decent at this, after three years of intensive study of the writing craft, and as much time in various critique groups, one of those with a published author who seems grateful for my pickiness—but I suspect that I lacked humility not only in the delivery of my critique, but in receiving his as well.
I take that back. I don’t just suspect. I know.
Then comes a discussion in one of my writers’ groups about doing reviews. Now, this is something I learned pretty much on my own with coaching by a couple of more experienced reviewers, but I was curious to see what would be said. But suddenly I find myself at odds with an attitude that seems to permeate much of CBA—that we must only review positively, or if we can’t write positively, then don’t review at all, because we don’t want to wound a fellow believer, and we certainly don’t want to commit professional suicide if we’re aspiring authors ourselves.
I’m not talking about being harsh for the sake of harshness—New York styled snarkiness—but the freedom to point out less than stellar writing (such as glaring implausibility in a plot or characterization), or flagging elements that might seriously turn off a segment of my review audience. Don’t readers deserve the honesty? Won’t they come to suspect my ability to judge between mediocre and good if I only write the positive?
And I’m aghast at the idea that a “negative” review might shut doors to me as a Christian writer. Do CBA editors really lack the maturity to see any difference between a calm assessment of the flaws in someone’s work, and ripping it apart just for the fun of it?
But once again I digress. In the middle of all this, and other discussions I’ve recently taken part in, I’m feeling that I would have done better to back away and let others speak. Stop rocking the boat. Stop pontificating. Stop pretending that I know anything, really, about the way the universe works, because there’s only One who sees the whole picture and knows the truth about any given situation.
And yet … we are told to share with others what bits of truth He reveals to us, and words are still the medium of that communication.
May He give me the grace to know when to keep my mouth shut—and then put His hand over my lips when I try to ignore Him. :-)