I can’t help but ponder the similarities and differences between sharing artistic and literary endeavors with others.
Here’s what I’m thinking about:
alpha-readers. They make us feel good and provide the needed reinforcement that moves us forward as writers.
An avid appreciator of art will come along and recognize that the medium is watercolor; they’ll observe that it’s not typical of the ‘genre,' but it seems to work. They may even notice the little bit of reflected backlight on the bottom side of the egg, and say ‘cool.’ But they are just as likely to say, 'what’s left to the imagination?' 'The composition is good, but it feels stagnant'. They are our beta-reader who may not be writers themselves, but know what they like and why they like it.
At some point, a fellow artist with a discriminating eye will come along. They may recognize all the above, but they may also notice the ridge of the copper kettle, how it trails off in distortion just above the spout, and think—what went wrong there? Or how the folds of fabric are overworked and muddy. They may object to the incongruities of the background and foreground. Thus the fellow-writer beta-reader.
Those are the similarities; now the differences, and in my opinion, they’re are huge.
• The painting is finished and I’m never going to go back and change any of it. No revising.
• And here’s a real biggy: How long did it take you to make a decision about the painting? Maybe 2 seconds? If you have a discriminating eye, maybe, oh, say 5-10 seconds—okay, I’ll give you 30. Less than one minute to decide if, in your opinion, it’s any good or if you'd hang it on your wall.
How long did it take your beta-readers to make a determination on your literary work? Especially if it’s a novel? Hours and hours. Not to mention the mental expenditure. We are asking them to trust us for a long ride that may or may not be to their liking.
And here’s a final difference
• What does this painting reveal about the artist? She has an eye for detail. She may have some control issues. Perhaps she likes domesticity and old stuff. Maybe she’s studied art—maybe she’s only read how-to books on painting. What else does it truly reveal?
Now think about how much of yourself you reveal when you write. Ever feel naked? I know I do.
Just sent my manuscript to a reader I don’t know, for technical support, but when he’s done, he's going to know a whole lot more about me than I ever will about him.
Feeling a little naked today…