I am a recently retired carpenter. In my everyday world for the last 40 years, I’ve dealt with a wide array of colorful characters, most on the rough side. And our way of communicating with each other might seem to be a little blunt to an outsider. “Hey, get your ass over here and grab that rope.” “No need to be an ass hole about it.” “Just shut up and do it.” At the end of the day everyone goes home tired but happy. Tempers do flair occasionally, things get heated, but we are all big boys and can deal with it.
Now, in my writing world and dealing with my critique group, I try to smooth out my rough edges. I stutter and stammer around when giving a negative critique while searching for the right word or phrase to replace, “Piece of crap” “Makes no sense at all” or “This is totally stupid.” Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not. I never know how sensitive these people, mostly women, might be. They could already be having a bad day, and my comments might set them off.
I also recognize that they pussy-foot around giving me a critique. Sometimes I have a little trouble deciphering what they’re saying. “A little wordy” might mean “Cut the whole damn thing and start all over.” We are all trying to play nice.
But! With Becky and me, we can pretty much call a spade a spade—although she might call it “That card with those little black shovel looking thingys on it.” Sometimes we measure our words, but usually we can just say what we’re thinking. She isn’t shy about blasting me for something stupid I’ve written, and I feel free to be honest with her.
Maybe that’s why we work together so well. We don’t waste our time saying how, “This didn’t move me” or “It didn’t hold my interest” when “This is a piece of crap” says it more clearly.
After all, as writers, aren’t we supposed to communicate clearly?