Write This: Mitchell and Webb

Last week I talked about the video of the C. K. Williams lecture (“On Being Old”) and promised to lighten up in future blogs. So stay with me!

I’m interested in Williams’s comments about his reaction to criticism at the age of 75. He says that he is better able now than in his younger days to distance himself from “the theatrics of criticism.”  This made me wonder how true this is for other writers over 50. How do we deal with feedback, criticism, editorial suggestions, bad reviews, or even rejection? Is it different for us now that we are older?

Susan Bono’s  Tiny Lights

Not long ago, Susan Bono sent this short video of the British comedy duo, Mitchell and Webb, in her Sparks e-newsletter. (Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative www.tiny-lights.com).  Take a look for a fresh, funny look at “the theatrics of criticism.”  (See, I promised you I would lighten up.)

(Click below to see video.)


British Comedy Duo: Mitchell and Webb


In this sketch, the writer (Mitchell) sits meekly while the critic (Webb) begins a barrage of suggestions about his novel.  Webb tries to be supportive (“It’s all great.”) But it’s clear that his random jabs aren’t well thought out. He knows that something needs to be done to improve the writing, but he isn’t sure exactly what. “What if Sarah falls in love with…not that, but something like that,” he says to the writer, Mitchell. “You’re the author,” he says. But Webb is actually making himself the author as he tries to re-write the opening of the novel; and Mitchell, as the writer, is completely confused.

Does this bring back any memories of your own experience giving and receiving feedback on your writing? Have you changed over the years? If you’re just beginning to write or to return to writing, how do you feel about this topic?  We’d love to hear from you.

In my next blog, we’ll continue this conversation.



5 thoughts on “Write This: Mitchell and Webb

  1. I submitted to a contest a short story based on a real encounter with Gloria Steinem in the 70s. Not only was it rejected, but someone took the time to write a comment saying I should have written about Betty Friedan instead. Then added a quote about Friedan’s influence vs. Steinem’s from that well-known feminist Joseph Heller. I have learned to be furious about such stupidity rather than take such rejections personally, as I did many years ago when it took me an hour to open those manila envelopes with the returned stories. Now I keep a list of places not to submit in my Submissions File.

  2. Ten plus years ago when I began taking my family saga essays to group for comments, I was frustrated (okay “furious”)with the “it’s too complicated” that I always got about my writing. However, I finally learned how to make complicated into interesting and even got a round of applause with an essay a couple years ago. That was a surprise. So I began taking regections as a “look again” and recently I began to receive positive rejections on the spiritual memoir I’m trying to sell in a rocky market. I take that as progress!! So it seems to me that as Carol said, keeping a do not send file — along with a positive rejection file– and just keep trusting in your writing to grow is about the sanest we can become. At least today!

    • Good plan, Janet. Your comment makes it clear that continuing focus on improving your writing with the help of careful readers does pay off. You worked through your initial reactions to feedback to create a better essay. I look forward to reading your memoir. Thnaks for your insights!

    • Take a look at this week’s post, Edna. Let us know your ideas for giving and receiving feedback on writing. I hope to come up with some creative ideas as alternatives/supplements to the traditional workshop approach.

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