Friday, 2 April 2010

Dictatorship and Me

When I'm starting a new class I usually declare that it is not a democracy, but a dictatorship, my personal fiefdom. Students must do as I say - there will be no dissent. It always gets a laugh, although actually I'm quite serious - classes should be led, or it all ends up a shambles. But what is democratic is taste. There is no 'correct' opinion.

There may be a concensus of opinion - many people enjoy reading Lord of the Rings, for example, fifty years after it was published. But equally many think it's a load of old tosh and not worth destroying trees for. I love Captain Corelli's Mandolin, especially the beginning, but there are lots of people out there who couldn't get past the first chapter. And take the Da Vinci Code, one of the best selling books ever, the one that writing tutors say: read, just because of the page turning qualities. Well, those qualities completely passed me by - I only read to the end because, as a writer and creative writing tutor, I felt I ought to but I was yawning most of the way.

So if anyone tells you your work is wrong, poor, bad, shoddy, inept, bland, dull or generally not quite up to scratch, take a deep breath and try not to let your writer's soul shrivel and die. If you speak to lots of people, who are knowledgeable about publishing and they all say the same thing then yes, you should give careful consideration to what they're saying. But always remember it's only their opinion. They could be wrong. Unless they're me of course, in which case, my opinion goes.


Minnie said...

Quite right,too, Sarah - and, of course, tastes are as various as people (thank God!).
Thanks again for a wonderfully instructive and amusing blog: a painless way of taking in some very, very important lessons.

Sarah Duncan said...

And if we all liked the same things, life would be very dull indeed. (It would be equally dull if everyone agreed with me all the time, but I try not to spread that bit of info around...)