Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hyperbole And Hope.

No, they are not all awesome, amazing, incredible and unbelievable.

As someone who is fast becoming a grumpy old man, I'm getting rather tired of hearing every single thing a person says, does or writes being described with these adjectives. His organisation of that event was good, not awesome. She is an average teacher, not unbelievable. This short story was solid, not incredible. That YouTube clip was ok, not amazing.

It seems that there's a tendancy for everything to be greater than it really is. It seems that no longer can anyone be other than great. Average is out, apparently, and yet when I look around I see so much mediocrity. And almost all of it is dressed up in the guise of brilliance.

When everything is outstanding, what are we comparing it to?

And along with this over-the-top praise comes over-the top encouragement. You'll get there. You'll make it. Never give up. The only loser is the quitter. You can do anything you want.

Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

Encouragement is good - when it's appropriate and realistic. But it can be damaging when not warranted. In the writing world, for example, I see this all the time. Writers are encouraged to keep submitting because one day "you'll get there." The only thing stopping you is you.

Not always true. Some writers are awful, and will never get anywhere. And we shouldn't believe this false hope.

Should they quit? Not necessarily. But we should be avoid praise from people who don't know, and listen to the comments and advice from people who do. And become realistic about our own abilities and prospects.

When I was a kid I wanted to play soccer when I grew up. Nobody ever told me I was brilliant. Nobody told me "I'd make it if I just keep trying." And for good reason. I was hopeless. If I wanted to, I could have kept it up and been happy with playing locally. Teams are sometimes so short of players they'll take anyone. But the truth is I knew I was no good and was never going to make it.

We can all learn and improve our writing skills. No doubt about it. But not eveyone will improve to the point where they can sell professionally. But sometimes writers need to accept they're doing it for their own enjoyment and never going to sell their work.


parlance said...

Interesting post, Steve. I taught in schools for many years and used praise to encourage kids to keep working. Since then I've been working with bright kids in a private capacity and I find that constructive criticism is really useful to let students know how they are going.

Steve Cameron said...

Constructive criticism and praise are indeed useful tools.

The problem is the people who tell others that everything is either awesome or amazing.

They start to believe it.