Monday, March 17, 2008
Walk a Mile In Your Enemy's Shoes ...
At the end of which, if still disgree, at least you'll be a mile away -- and your enemy will be barefoot ...
The good thing about the internet is that it allows a lot of long-distance conversations you might not otherwise be able to have; the bad thing is that it allows a lot of long-distance conversations you might not otherwise be able to have ...
I've spoken to this before, how words alone offer only broad and relatively inexact communications, even in the hands of experts. I do this every day, easily have written six or seven million words and make a living at it, and on my best day, I might bat .500. Anybody less practiced has a harder row to hoe.
So, after a recent discussion online in which I found myself shaking my head over something I thought I understood, I wondered: If our positions were reversed, if I was making comments about something I considered myself something of an adept at, would I offer the same kind of pronouncements?
I certainly could make a case for so doing:
I've been writing and selling stuff for more than thirty years. I've sold scores of short stories; articles, TV scripts, movie treatments and a bunch of novels. If you haven't sold a novel, if you start writing and selling one a year, and if I quit writing today, chances are you won't live long enough to catch up.
Does that make me more experienced in the writing biz than somebody who hasn't sold anything? Probably.
Does it make me a better writer? Well ... no.
The ability to put the words on the paper in some kind of order is major, and it is a skill that sharpens with practice, but not the only factor. Luck, timing, the economy, the state of the nation, all kinds of things come into play to get a book published. There are better writers who don't do as well as I; there are worse writers who make a lot more money. Talent isn't the only measure. Sometimes who you know is more important than what you know.
For me to say to a newbie writer, "Listen, I understand more about how a book contact is structured than you, based on my experience." that's probably valid. But maybe it isn't. Maybe the newbie writer is a contracts lawyer, or maybe she worked in the publishing business's legal department. Her experience isn't the same, but because it doesn't match mine, that doesn't make it invalid. I don't know what she knows.
If I read somebody's manuscript and offer comments on the content, they will be based on my taste, my experience, and my knowledge of what works and what doesn't. But my critique will be, at the bottom, my opinion. I'd like to think it would be a fair appraisal and mostly right, but I could be dead wrong. I have to allow for that. It is tempting to hold up my experience as the be-all, end-all, and it simply is not.
What I know isn't all encompassing, and while I am going to roll using it because it is what I have to get me where I want to go, there are many paths up the mountain. When I hear that brushed off with, "Well, yes, but my path is better." it trips alarms bells. If it is, "Mine is the only true one," well, I've heard that one before, and I ain't convinced. And "Because I have experience and I say so." isn't enough to make it so me. So when I say it, it ought not to be enough to convince anybody else, either. Sauce for the goose and all.
"Here's how I see it," is not the same as "Here is how it is."
I must try to remember that ...
And, hallelujah, we have heat here again. Burned-out igniter, less costly than the electronic module would have been. Though that term "less costly" is relative ...