Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Silence is not criticism

Scott GF Bailey is off vacationing in Oregon this week. As a result, I get to fill in for him, and I do declare open random, even nonsensical comments for today's (and any day's) post.

I went to see the great movie The Kids Are All Right this weekend. (Director Lisa Cholodenko is a resident of the great San Fernando Valley in which I live.) Among the many great insights throughout the movie was the realization that silence is not criticism.

How often have I completely rewritten a story or even scrapped something simply because a reader didn't say anything about it? Too many times. And, I do apologize to those readers for forcing such negative feedback into their intentions.

Let's say it again: Silence is not criticism.

Ahhhh, doesn't that make us all feel just a little bit better?


  1. If-ay it-ay ere-way only-ay at-thay easy-ay

  2. The phrase "peanut gallery" comes to mind

  3. And I now conclude that Andrew and Chuck are the same person, much like Michael and Janet Jackson

  4. Here's a tip:

    Never pet a burning cat!

    How's that for random comments? :)

  5. But you should ALWAYS pat a burning cet!

  6. What is going on in the comments section here?

    Hmmm, maybe silence would be better. :P

    Davin, it's nice to hear someone say this about silence. I've always taken silence as the worst kind of criticism, and I try not to ever give that kind of criticism to other writers, even though it shouldn't be viewed as criticism and now I'll be quiet. :)

  7. Indeed. No comment is exactly that, nothing more, nothing less. :-)

  8. The nectarine I'm holding just said softly in my ear, "Silence is the absence of compliments, so silence might as well be criticism."

    I don't agree with the nectarine, but, you know, nectarines DO have their own minds.

  9. Michelle, I just remember getting hurt when people didn't say anything. I think it's possible it means they didn't like the work, but we just never know and it's probably pointless to assume.

    Jamie, if only I could always live with this kind of clarity!

    F.P., the thought of a piece of fruit with a brain in the center is funny and gross at the same time. :P

  10. Whoa. You are so right--we usually read all kinds of awful into silence. So I won't be silent. HI DAVIN! LOVE THE POST!
    and besides that the skylark sings...

  11. Davin, if a cat's on fire, it'll be burned up before you can ever PAT it. Haven't you ever lit a piece of hair on fire before? :)

    Oh, and although silence may not be criticism, it sure feels like it. I hate not knowing "something", even if that something is bad. Great post.

  12. I have to admit, in my writers group there are times when one or more of the members did not make a comment on my writing, good or bad, and I did sometimes take it personally....as a criticism. But there are times when I don't make any comments...usually when it's abstract poetry that goes completely over my head or something like heavy science fiction that I really know nothing about and don't feel like I can give useful feedback on. But I always try my best to point out what I do like.

  13. Ah, definitely makes me feel better!

  14. If Andrew and I are the same person like Michael and Janet Jackson, does that mean that we are both dead and not dead like what's-his-names's cat (who, as far as I know was not on fire)?

  15. A couple of weeks ago, I made the mistake of reading Shel Silverstein's poem, "The Bagpipe Who Didn't Say No" to my three year old. The turtle talks to the bagpipe and first interprets the bagpipes silence positively, then negatively.

    Later that night, my son woke up screaming. He'd had a nightmare about the poem. He hugged me, crying.

    "What's wrong, what's wrong?" I asked.

    "No one would talk to the turtle!" he cried. "That makes me too sad!"

    Ouch! I felt terrible. Obviously silence DOES feel like criticism, even to the very young.

    (You can find the poem here:)

  16. Heard you loud and clear, Tricia! Thank you! :P

    Eric, I have had one experience with burning hair. It involved a candle and me brushing my teeth and a long moment of stupidity when I looked into the mirror and thought how funny it was that the candle seemed to be on top of my head.

    Stephanie, I think my silences are often neutral. Often it's because, like you say, I haven't quite connected with the piece in some way. Sometimes I'll just say that, though.

    Corey, glad you feel better. I think I'm going to start telling people that they aren't criticizing me when they're silent. Just to make sure they know.

    Chuck, do you know I have a Ph.D.? Sometimes when I tell people that they stop with the pesky, nonsensical questions and replace them with new ones. And...did you know that about 20 of us here on the blog, including Scott, Michelle, and others collaborated on a short story that included Schrodinger's cat? It's published in Opium magazine! It's called The Uncertainty Principle.

    Tara Maya, that's a really great story! Not great, like I'm happy your son cried, but a very powerful story. I hope he is better. And thanks for the link!

  17. I just read the bagpipe poem. It IS sad.

  18. Whoah.

    That's deep, Chuck H.


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  20. Pointing is not rude. The sun never sets. Heaven is where I am.


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