Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

World's Best Job

A Facebook friend of mine, author Jami Gold, recently blogged about "Writers: One Big Happy Family" at http://jamigold.com/blog/

No, she wasn't being sarcastic. Jami echoed a sentiment I've felt for a long time. Although there are fruitcakes and wingnuts in every occupation or hobby, I've found the writing profession to be remarkably supportive of struggling beginners. It's not cutthroat competitive. There's not the feeling that "if I help you get in print, that might mean I won't get published."

Former UCLA writing instructor Dennis Foley currently lives in Whitefish, Montana. He has been a successful writer and producer on motion pictures and TV shows such as CHINA BEACH, CAGNEY & LACEY, and MacGUYVER, as well as having several Vietnam novels published. When he was a lowly staff writer in Hollywood (the equivalent of a cub reporter on a major newspaper), an experienced screenwriter took Dennis under his wing and helped him avoid lots of rookie mistakes. Dennis asked how he could repay the veteran and was told, "Help other writers." And he has, many times over.

The only exception I've seen to this attitude has been in critique groups, mainly online. For some reason, normally sweet, kindly people who would never kick a puppy - folks who would give their last quarter to a hungry stranger - can be vicious in pointing out examples of poor writing. I have a friend who's in some of these groups, and she keeps explaining to me how busy these people are, and how it's sort of "tough love."

I don't think it takes much more time to point out strengths at the same time we correct errors. I believe a measure of tact is always appropriate when dealing with folks who are obviously rank beginners. I feel some of us have forgotten about the first word in "constructive criticism."

So I agree, writing is the world's best profession, but there's still room for improvement.


  1. Hi Dixon,

    Thanks for the shout-out! :)

    Yes, I agree critiquing can be tricky. So far, I've taken criticism really well. Does that lack of sensitivity mean I'm less sensitive when I *give* criticism as well? *shrug* I have no way to know.

    With my steady critique partners, we've built up a level of trust, so we know the harsh stuff comes with the idea that we just want what's best for each other. But random people, who judge things out of context? Yeah, those are harder to deal with. :)

  2. I appreciate the input, Jami. Yes, steady critique groups (especially face-to-face ones) are usually good experiences, mainly because folks with lousy attitudes don't hang around for the long haul. I love my local critique group. It's mostly online groups, where you can hide behind a phony name, that are sometimes harsh on newbies.