Wednesday, 3 April 2013


The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, created by Alex Cavanaugh. People who are part of IWSG are encouraged to post their thoughts, doubts and insecurities about their writing. For more information about the group, click HERE.

I recently received praise for some of my writing. Nothing big, just a little acknowledgement. Normally, this would be a good thing, a boost in confidence and motivation, a spike in the ole energy meter. And it did have these effects for about 8 seconds. After that, it had the reverse effect. What's been troubling me lately is false praise. Instead of enjoying the positive feedback, I couldn't help but feel that it wasn't genuine. I'm worried that the praise given to me was just that, given and not earned

Big. Difference. 

It breaks me a little inside when people tell me something is good when in fact, what they really mean is: poor girl, this is the biggest pile of writing poo ever squeezed out of a so-called writer. Here have a cookie and feel better.

"What we've got here is FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE."  

Anyway, false praise is the worst. I rather get no praise or negative feedback, than false praise. False praise may taste sweet at first, but it always leaves a bad taste in my mouth that makes me feel like shit for weeks. 


  1. I agree. False praise is the worst.

  2. When I give feedback to writers, I try to think of something positive to say that is honest and true from my perspective even if I see some areas that could use some improvement in the WIP. So I start with the positive, and then move onto what they could fix...

    If you feel someone has given you feedback that seemed incomplete or "false," it might only be that they were telling you what they liked, and maybe didn't feel comfortable saying what they didn't like. You can always just ask them to tell you what areas could use more work.

    I hope the next time you get praise, your happy levels would last for more than 8 seconds!

  3. Hey, you don't know it was false, maybe just the way it was worded. I always kind of suspect people are just being "kind" with praise because it's hard to like your own writing. But then I feel horrible because I know most people are being genuine. They would tell me honestly if it sucked, I hope!

  4. MJ: Pretty much.

    Cynthia: Hi Cynthia. I do the same thing when I give feedback. I start with the positive, give places that I feel need improvement and finish with more positive. This wasn't so much a reaction to feedback I got from a critique, this was praise given under a much more official light. Oh well, maybe I'm just being nuts. (=

    Nick: I understand what you mean. This was prompted not so much from general feedback as it was an official acknowledgement. Like you, I hope people would tell me if it sucks.

  5. Sometimes you can just tell when it's fake, especially when it just oozes forth and it over the top. I don't want to hear it either.

  6. It is only one person's opinion.

  7. Slobbering praise is the worst. I don't want all harsh criticism though. Sandwich effect please - praise-criticism-praise.

  8. I'd rather have honest criticism than false praise, every time!

  9. Yeah it can truly be a pain when all they say is some over the top positive fluff that can easily be seen through.

  10. I'm nodding my head -- not about the 'writing is poo' part! -- about not wanting praise that isn't earned. I actually told that very thing to a crit partner once, word for word.

    Great post!

  11. Yes, if the person will lie to you about compliments, what else is that person lying about? Sad.

  12. Alex: Agreed.

    Sally: True. But one person can have a big effect.

    Diane: I don't have tough skin--another one of my insecurities, but I'm fine when it come to constructive criticism. But it totally throws me when it's not genuine.

    Emma: Hi Emma, me too!

    Pat: Yeah, and sometimes it's so damn eye-rolling obvious . . .

    Melissa: That's the key word: earned

    Roland: Well, I try not to go that far with it, but you've got a point. Sad indeed.

  13. I'd definitely rather have constructive criticism than false praise. How else can we learn?

    But, as Nick said, maybe it was just in the way it was presented?

  14. Hi Elise,

    False praise would be something I also could do without. I know you would much prefer a balanced appraisal. Even a bit of constructive criticism. All you ask is honesty with out any possible sugar coating.

    Take good care,

    Gary :)

  15. I have a friend who is unfailingly positive, to the point that I begin to wonder if she can REALLY LOVE so many things. After a while you have to question it. I would rather hear that the story is drek, and get reasons for it, than to hear praise without progress.

  16. I would like constructive criticism.
    But you have to also bear in mind that writing is quite subjective too... so is the critique process (to a degree I'm sure....?)

  17. Oh do I hear you. I much prefer constructive criticism or hell,even just telling me it sucks. I agree with Lauren above. Praise without progress is a terrible blow to a writer's confidence.

  18. I have trouble with that too. Worst is that you can tell it's not honest, so whatever good they wanted to do by giving it is fleeting.

  19. First...I love your theme for A-Z. You're a girl after my own heart. I thrive on -ologies! Love them and love to learn about them. I did know what dactylology was (sort of). I knew it had something to do with the fingers. It's what the dactyl means in pterodactyl (the ptero means wing). See how knowing roots is beneficial?

    Anyhoo...I digress. Great post for IWSG, too. False praise. It comes at you all the time, and there are some good liars out there. So it's hard for me to accept any praise because I think everyone's "just being nice." Especially when I know what I've written could use a little help. I think to self, "they evidently don't know shit from shinola."

    It's easier to trust the writing community...but I can tell when that's "reaching," too, like when they say something that conflict with key things in my writing that prove they didn't really read it. Alas, what's a boy to do?

    Know thyself, and it will give a confidence unknown before. Plus, it's easier to admit to yourself that, eh, this is mediocre and I know it.

    Again...GREAT post. Trust me on that. I'm real and honest, and try to leave comments that show I've read every word, and give feedback to that effect (that's not to say that others out there don't, it's to say I do).

  20. Mark: Maybe, but sometimes, it's just so damn obvious...

    Gary: Actually, I would like a little sugar coating, lol along with a good dose of constructive criticism. I guess what I'm trying to say is give it to me straight without being mean.

    Lauren: 100% agree with you. I wonder if people who "love" everything are actually people who are afraid of everything or have serious self-confidence issues. . .

    Michelle: Good point M. I appreciate constructive criticism and know I can agree or respectfully disagree with it. False praise however is useless to me, and I'd even go so far as to say it's destructive.

    Melissa: I think part of the problem is that people are so afraid to hurt another's feelings that they rather lie than be constructive. We should give a course on how to "Give it to 'em Straight Without Being an Asshat."

    Al: Exactly. It can be eye-rolling obvious sometimes.

    Michael: Glad you like the theme. Ologies are so fun to study in and of themselves! And your right knowing the roots is important. I learned many as an Entomology grad student. It helped in identification and classification. Wouldn't want to mix up a diptera with a hymenoptera, lol! (: And thanks for your thoughts on false praise. It's nice to know others feel the same way about it as I do. (:

  21. I'm with you. I just recently started attending a creative writing class and though I am learning a lot, I can't help but think that I could write the most horrible thing on earth and they would find the two decent lines in there to praise. I get it that people is trying to be nice and not hurt anyone or deter them from their path, but seriously, just be honest.

    Anyway, take the best where you can and keep pushing yourself forward. Best of luck.

    From IWSG

  22. Elise, based on the way you write your blog, I have a feeling that praise was honest. Still, I do understand what you mean--I'd rather be told the truth than have someone give me a glowing pity-review. You have a little more faith in yourself and your writing, though, Elise! Again, I have a strong feeling that whatever praise you receive is well deserved! :)

  23. Georgina: Thanks Georgina. I wish I could go to a writing class or be part of a writing group. I think it helps to hear what and how other writers write. I think people have been raised to be so afraid to hurt someone else's feelings that they will go the extra mile to find the one glint of hope in the wiriting to praise. Maybe the group should go around and start with saying what they didn't like, and then finish with a positive. That's would I would like. Tell me what sucks so I can fix it, but also tell me what you like, so I don't go and mess that up later.

    Randi: Thanks randi. (: Sometimes I'll write something and feel good about it and it's even better when I'm able to get the same kind of feedback. But sometimes, when I'm being honest with myself about something I've written and know it's not that great, and then someone comes along and is overly nice and glowing about it, well you just know. You just know it's not sincere. I guess that's what I'm getting at. I know I don't suck all the time, but when I do, I'd like someone to point out the places that really super-suck so I can improve.


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