In my free time, I teach.*
I work for the Princeton Review, teaching people how to get better scores on their LSAT and GMAT tests so that they can get into law school or business school, respectively. I do it because I like to teach, because it's rewarding to me to help students learn and achieve their goals.**
Recently, Maya Reynolds did a post about newbie writers who email her asking questions about how they get started in the business, and I have to say that I'm really looking forward to that aspect of being published.*** It seems like another form of teaching to me, and I always like that.
What I'm not looking forward to, however, is the inevitable situation that arose for Maya recently, where she helped a new writer out by using her valuable time to provide feedback, and then got basically a "thanks for nothing" response.****
I hate that response, because it means that you've gone out of your way for someone, and they are essentially telling you that you wasted your life. Fun.
So here's my rule -- when you ask someone a question, accept the answers.
That doesn't mean agree with the answers, or follow the answers, or change your whole life based on the answers. It means accept the answers. Think of them like an ugly sweater from your great aunt Millie. When she gives you the ugly sweater, you can't just hand it back to her and say "thanks, but no thanks, Aunt Millie"*****. That's rude to someone who was kind enough to think of you.
And, remember, you don't have to wear the sweater. You don't have to hav eyour picture taken in it and post that on your Facebook page or anything. No, you just have to take the ugly sweater and try to smile and say "thank you, Aunt Millie" and wait until after she's left to put it in the donation bag or, better yet, the trash, because no one wants a sweater that ugly, even if it's free.
That's what I mean when I say "accept answers." Take them from the person who gave them to you (in response to your question, remember) and say "thank you." Don't try to argue, or explain, or be snide in your response. Because, just like an ugly sweater, you don't have to use the answers. You don't have to change a word of your manuscript if you don't want to. You don't have to delete a single letter. So just accept them and say thank you.
You can always throw them away later.
* I get paid for it, of course -- I'm not a saint -- but it's not second career money or anything.
** I used to teach English, but getting a part-time job teaching English is a lot harder than getting a part-time job teaching LSAT skills. :)
*** I get to assume I get published, since this is my blog and all. :)
**** Some of you may remember that this has happened to Maya before. It speaks to her dedication, that she's willing to take the time to do this over and over again in the face of the ungrateful responses she sometimes receives. That, my friends, is the heart of a teacher.
***** At least, not in my house, unless you wanted to be swatted upside the head and sent to your room.