Natasha wrote a post on Encouragement today and I found myself frowning. She's right, but.... Well, yes, but.... Huh.
She says in part:
one of the things I love about DH, is he will read my stuff, tell me it's great, and tell me he's looking forward to the next bit.
I don't delude myself into thinking that he really thinks it's always great. I mean, he doesn't have much choice about what to say. If he doesn't say it's great, he gets a barrage of two thousand questions and we have to talk about it all the way home.
But even though I know it's a "canned" response, it keeps me writing.
And that's where I started squinting and pondering. I think it depends on the individual, really, because I wouldn't want my husband to read my stuff and just go "It's great, honey!" every time. I'd find that incredibly frustrating and annoying and pretty quickly I'd stop giving him stuff to read. :P
Do I like encouragement? Of course. But when it comes to my actual writing, to specific stories or pages or whatever, I want it to be honest encouragement, with reasons behind it. I want that back-and-forth discussion of what works and what doesn't work and why, and how things could be made better.
A bare, "Hey, this rocks!" is great when it comes from a reader who's posting a comment to a story or sending me an e-mail or something; they're strangers and it's great that they took the time to say anything at all. But for someone who's reading my work on a regular basis, someone I talk to every day, who's right there and available for an extended conversation, to just say "Good job, keep going," over and over again? Ummm. :/ No thanks, seriously.
Maybe it's just that I'm cynical about this sort of thing, but to me, having someone always claim to love whatever it is I'm doing, with no commentary and never any "But maybe this bit could've used some work," or "Actually, I didn't get why Joe did that in in this part here," sounds fake. Hearing "Great stuff, love!" every single time sounds like that person is just trying to boost my ego by giving hollow compliments, patting my head and telling me I'm a good girl and isn't that adorable? It comes across (to me, anyway) as incredibly patronizing and makes me angry much more than it makes me feel good or warm or fuzzy.
Which isn't to say I dislike any and all generic encouragement, of course. My husband respects my work and doesn't interrupt me when I'm writing, which is the encouragement version of showing rather than just telling. :) And on the telling side, he's said that he's proud of me for getting published after all this time, for sticking with it and finally fulfilling a dream I've had since I was a teenager. "You work so hard," or "You're so determined," or even, "Come on, you can do it -- keep trying and you'll find away over, around or through that roadblock in the story" -- that sort of encouragement is very cool because it says "I admire you" and "I believe in you," which is the sort of support I can believe and appreciate. But telling me how wonderful my writing is, over and over -- that page was wonderful, that chapter was wonderful, that story was wonderful, every word that comes out of your keyboard is absolutely wonderful -- I can't believe that. Maybe that's a problem, I don't know.
I'm not everyone, of course. I'm certainly not Natasha, and she's not me. I think it rocks that her husband gives her the exact sort of encouragement she needs and thrives on; it just shows that he knows her well and they fit together just right. But I don't think there's any one mode of praising or encouraging that's going to work with everyone. With people who are close to you, I think the trick of it is to make sure your spouse or parent or best friend or whomever actually knows what sort of encouragement you want or need. People don't read minds, and while it feels great when someone spontaneously tells you exactly what you want to hear, it can feel just as good to tell someone what you need and know that they're giving it to you because they care about you and really want to help you out by giving you what you need and have asked for.
Hopefully everyone can hook up with someone who'll give them what they need. Because every writer -- and every person, no matter what they're into -- deserves to feel like someone's there encouraging them and cheering them on.