Who watches American Idol? (Don’t leave. This is about writing, not reality TV, so stick with me.) The auditions are the best part, but they’re an emotional rollercoaster for me. Not for my husband, who gleefully laughs his way through the dreadful, but he’s then he’s not creative. His artistic release is modeling HO-scale railroad—a logical, math-based pursuit. He doesn’t know what it feels like to pour your heart and soul into something and have it rejected. I cry for them. Even if I laughed at the dreadfulness, I cry during their dismissal.
It’s the same for So You Think You Can Dance. Even when the performers suck, I feel their pain because it’s their passion—it’s what they believe they were meant to do. But the hard fact is not every singer, dancer or writer is going to make it. No matter how hard they work and no matter how much they want it, they’re simply not good enough.
Which brings me to critiquing. I have confessed in the past that I don’t critique—other than the occasional read-through for a friend—because I’m a voice-killer. I have this compulsion to rewrite the manuscript until it’s the way I would have written it. It’s wrong, I can’t help it, and therefore I’ll only read for writers I know are strong enough to ignore that aspect of my critique. Beware of authors like me. We are out there and not all of us recognize this tendency in ourselves.
Where the hell was I? Oh, critiquing. The thing that kills me about American Idol is the fact a really horrible singer will come out of the room and her loved ones will be there waiting. WHY, for the love of Bruins hockey, didn’t you tell her she sucks? There was one girl so terrible my dog whined and when the girl broke into spontaneous song in the lobby, her mom closed her eyes and swayed with the music in orgasmic delight. I wanted to punch her in the face.
If you critique for a friend or fellow writer and you can’t bring yourself to tell her she’s not ready yet, you’re that mom in the lobby. It’s not easy telling somebody you care about they’re not as good at something as they hope they are. But if, instead of being honest with her privately, you let her believe she’s good enough, she’ll step out onto that big stage. And when she comes off that stage devasted and humiliated and broken, part of that’s on you.