I come from a culture where giving praise was frowned on, in case someone ‘got a big head’. That was a huge crime (socially speaking), to get above of yourself, to be proud of what you do.
But really, praise doesn’t cause inappropriate pride. It can cause confidence, and faith in one’s own abilities, and a will to carry on and even the occasional smile. What’s wrong with that?
I’ve been to writing groups where the feedback has been purely of the critical variety. That was wrong, you wrote that wrong, you should have done this, that, the other.
Feedback, even critical feedback, is not wrong. But every once in a while, a word of praise can do a hundred times more good than any criticism.
I’m not talking about the praise sandwich that is so prevalent in management culture. You know the kind of thing. ‘That’s a nice shirt. Your department is failing and its all your fault. That’s a really nice shirt’.
I’m talking about a simple, sincere good word. ‘I liked your character.’ ‘That was a nice twist’. ‘I think its clever how you’ve done that.’
As I’ve said before, writing is a very lonely profession. You work alone, you create alone, and then you present your work to the wide world with no idea how it’s going to be received. If you’re anything like me, by this stage you have no idea if your work is any good or not, you’re highly sensitive and you’re shaking with nerves.
Praise, at this point, is a life-saver. It doesn’t have to be effusive, or over the top or flamboyant. It just has to be sincere. Criticise a piece of work all you want, but the word of praise will keep the author warm and happy all the way home. And more importantly, it’ll keep the writer writing. And we all want that.
Criticism has its place. It’s vital if someone is to improve. It’s a necessary part of creating anything. But don’t be afraid to say those three little words. ‘I like that’. It’ll do no harm, and will do an awful lot of good.