The best short comment I ever got on my writing was “Bob writes interesting stuff when he isn’t writing about himself.” I got a kick out of it because it was so blunt, the exact thing a diplomat doesn’t EVER say to a self-obsessed old man.
It has been remarked that writers have to be crazy, because they spend their entire working lives sitting there talking to themselves. The fact that one is sitting there talking to himself is obscured by the fact that one is doing it on a machine by hand instead of babbling to oneself on a street corner.
But some have done it on a voice recorder. They really are talking to themselves, just like that guy you heard about who ended up in the dingaling ward.
When you DO get something published, you often have a bit of a feeling that you are making something private public. Even Stephen King, who couldn’t be MORE public, has an intensely personal feeling about a book he has been up close and personal with for MONTHS, just him and that fetus literally growing into a book for the millions.
All writers get frustrated when they ask people to read over what they are doing. He gives you his project which he has been slowly developing and rewriting, and you point out some spelling errors and grammar. He is waiting for the first verdict of you, his first jury, and what he gets is some school work.
The immediately result is that said writer gets a desperate wish to have kidneys for breakfast.
But I have slowly come to realize that it is the writer, not the first reader, who is being naïve.
You are trying to find out whether your draft writing is fulfilling your own ambitions for it. Is it entertaining — for your AUDIENCE? Is it understandable? For your AUDIENCE? You are a writer precisely because you know this audience and you have worked your butt off to be able to be THEIR writer.
Then you hand a draft of your special idea to your special people, to someone and expect THEM to look it over and tell you how it plays to a particular group of people of whom he has no knowledge and, likely, damned little interest. And you have an urge to rip out his guts when he is more impressed by your using ‘their instead’ of ‘their,’ than he is about subjects and people you have spent most of your waking life thinking about.
When I went to a party, it seemed that most people I met wanted to WRITE. Over half the time what they wanted to write was an autobiography.
They are most interested in themselves.
Aren’t we all? That is why I put the word AUDIENCE in caps up there.
So there is a personal element to my getting upset when comments drift away completely from the point I am trying to make. I bitch and I moan, but the simple fact is that Hitler IS more interesting than Bob Whitaker.
That is where DISCIPLINE comes in, both for you and for me.