Chapter 14 of Teaching English, How To…. By Raymond Stopper (Xlibris, 2004).
Question: What are the effects of others’ passing judgment on one’s writing?
Answer: I worked hard on the article, never having tried to write for professional journals before. When I finished what I thought was a really good article, I brought it downstairs for my wife, an elementary teacher, to read—a mistake. She was lying on the couch reading the newspaper. I asked her to interrupt what she was doing to read my article; then I sat on the stairs, waiting for her to tell me what a brilliant piece of work I had produced.
Instead, she showed every evidence of being bored. She started to read. Then she leafed through the pages to see how long it was. She shifted her position, put the article down, picked it up again, then obviously began skimming in order to finish in a hurry. I grew tense. I grew angry.
Finally, she held out the article to return it to me. “I’m not very smart,” she said. “I think this is written for people who are smarter than I am.”
“But it’s written for people just like you,” I blurted. “It’s written for elementary teachers.”
She shrugged and I exploded.
“All right,” I said, storming back up stairs. “I’m sending this in, and you’ll see!”
It was I who would “see.” The article came back with whole chunks of text eliminated by the peer reviewers. In addition, one peer reviewer said, “Everyone knows this. Not recommended for publication.” However, the editor said that if I were to find information on how much professional reading teachers did and other articles on encouraging professional reading to which I could relate my idea, she would consider publishing it if I resubmitted.
I should have known to provide background information before launching into my idea. After all, I’d read a great number of professional articles and that practice is standard.
I had to go to my wife and admit, “You were right.”
“I need your help,” I said. “I need you to review what I write. But we’ve got to change the way we do it. The minute you started to make negative judgments about my article, I hit the ceiling. Even telling me it was great wouldn’t have helped me to improve the article.”
Next Blog: How readers can help in revising.