Chuck Zaglanis, Rick Moore, and I were sitting around talking about writing. Rick looked at me with his soulful eyes (he keeps them in a breast pocket) and said: "You can tell me how to correct a golf swing over and over, but ultimately the player is the one who has to make the transformation." Chuck stopped me from throwing coffee at Rick, but I had to admit, it got me thinking.
I have been a member of writer groups and have given feedback to numerous people. A few even talk to me after. But perhaps the issue isn't just a matter of looking at mechanics, but looking at the person and asking the person to examine how they do something. Writing is, after all, an internal voyage. We can criticise and critique the final result, but its the process where the magic happens.
So, is there an element that's missing in critiquing? Of course going to that level of personal transformation is something beyond the relationship most possess with the person whose work they are reading, and the depth of involvement required is beyond what most people are willing to give or receive.
It sounds all too zen, doesn't it. Still, at some level I think I agree. No one changes unless they have to. Telling someone to work on economy in style or theme is meaningless; the person has to make that discovery and internalize it. Someone might be ready for feedback, but others will keep writing, continuing to struggle with the same issues over and over again.
As a teacher, I immediate considered the educational issues with Rick's assertion. If we take his premise and apply it to students struggling through school, then we have to stop and look at the student and seek transformation through the individual and through the family. Again, something that most are not willing to do. If I told a mother "I think you should work with your son to examine those elements in his life that are blocking him from studying and dedicating himself to the lesson", she would point a finger at me and say: "Be a teacher and teach. If I want psychiactric advice I'll hire a shrink."
So the transformation for many students doesn't occur until later in life, and by then look at how much they've missed. Think about how many people feel they really started learning "after" they left school. As I've said before, school is a small portion of life's experience. Mostly, school only teaches a person how to learn. The bulk of the learning comes afterward, and in many cases, only when the person really feels the need to apply himself or herself to a desired discipline.
I'll end here. I'm going to go think about this some more, and maybe write an article...sell it somewhere. Pretend I have some insight. I just wanted to free associate and think out loud. Okay. I invite your own interpretations on Rick's statements. I'm going to get asprin.