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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sharing Unfinished Work

There are two schools of thought about this. Mine is that you should only share work that is done, in "penultimate" form. Giving someone a "rough draft" verges on the insulting. Moreover, it puts the reader in an awkward position. Should I point out rather obvious lapses that the writer could easily catch herself? Or should I assume that he really needs help with some basic issues? I have to guess at what needs commentary and what doesn't. I don't want to waste my time with issues that the writer already knows how to fix, with the possibility of insulting him, but I don't know which is which. Does the writer have problems with organization, or did she give me something before she bothered to organize it? You should only share with me a smooth draft.

The other school of thought is that you need to share work sometimes earlier, just to get another perspective, or for reassurance. If I need feedback on ideas, then what I would normally do is to send a more informal email and lay out some ideas, to see whether they have plausibility. On beginning one of my current thoughts I wrote four or five people in the field asking their opinion about whether it would be viable, giving them a sketch of what I was planning.

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