Over at right-reading, Tom Christensen shares a letter he received from a writer who says he met Tom years ago, and that Tom’s response to his work was so devastating that he stopped sharing his work for ten years. The letter-writer admits that he may have gotten Tom confused with someone else, and that, even if Tom was the editor he met with, his response might not have been as harsh as the writer remembers. Kind of makes me think of the hundreds of writing workshop sessions I’ve led, and what I said. As teacher and editors, we’re supposed to present the truth as we see it, no matter how harsh it might be, but it’s easy to forget that the person on the other side of the criticism might take our words too much to heart. While it’s important to point out strengths where they exist, and to be as encouraging as is possible in an honest way, the teacher or editor does no one any favors by heaping on undeserved praise.
The question, then: how much honesty is too much?