Is the PB Writing Community TOO Positive?

Hear me out here.

As anyone familiar with the writing community knows, its generally a very positive community. Everyone cheers everyone else to victory. We celebrate them signing with agents, shout out book birthdays and generally love to see others succeed. And I think that is wonderful. Truly. It’s almost surreal to see such a positive community of people all centered around creating something special for children.


You knew there was a but, right?

I wonder if all of the positivity does…maybe too much encouraging? I know, I’m blaspheming here. But stay with me. Let’s all start by acknowledging that while yes, anyone CAN write, a lot of what’s being written, posted, and critiqued, is…well…bad (this obviously includes things I’ve written; who knows, maybe everything I’ve written!).

And we can’t say it. Because this is a positive community. We want to encourage people to write better, so we use sandwich critiquing – whereby we couch our criticism in between positive comments. But what if the story, or writing, or both, is just so awful that we struggle to find positive comments? Well, we find something positive anyway. Right? I can’t be the only one who has been in this position. And yes, maybe part of it is just that the person isn’t writing to my taste. But why are we so afraid of rejecting writing when that’s what we face from agents/editors if we’re pursing traditional publishing? I want to know if my writing is awful. I want someone to say, yeah, there were a few ok things here, but most of this is pretty bad (or, I guess, in nicer terms – “really needs extensive editing”). Does all of the encouragement of the community blind us to the faults in our writing? Does it encourage people (i.e., me) who have no business writing to continue to do so?

Here is my fear: that I am the picture book writing equivalent of those horrible American Idol contestants who think they’re amazing until they finally find themselves in front of Simon Cowell.

Where is my Simon Cowell?


3 responses to “Is the PB Writing Community TOO Positive?”

  1. Stacy S. Jensen says :

    I’m sure you are not that contestant. love the positivity from fellow writers. For critiques, I really want people to tell me their opinions. Over time, I’m better at asking followup questions to feedback, so I can get a deeper answer. (And sometimes, my answer is that it just sucks and “needs work.”) This whole PB writing stuff is a puzzle and sometimes it’s stinking difficult to find the right piece. I enjoyed this post.

    • picturebookplaydate says :

      Thanks Stacy! I agree, I love the positivity, especially how folks really cheer others on. I’m attending an SCBWI meeting this weekend focused on critiques (how to give/receive them, etc.), so I’m hoping to glean some useful information there (and I’ll probably post the notes here too). 🙂

  2. Eileen Manes says :

    Ha! I say this to my husband all the time! “You wouldn’t be one of those people who would let me go on American Idol sounding horrible, the whole time knowing it…would you?”…

    But here are 5 words I never imagined saying: I’ll be your Simon Cowell. 🙂

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