"Should I throw this out?" a woman asked me, clutching her manuscript pages.
The encounter took place at a writer's retreat where I taught a class a couple of weeks ago. During my class "Fixing the Broken Story," I offered to look over any pages the participants had doubts about, and this woman took me up on it. After the edit, red pen marks dotted the half dozen pages, though I'd given a positive comment when I could. The disappointment on her face confirmed she'd expected glowing reviews, and I wanted to oblige, but false praise wouldn't have helped her.
"Don't do that," I said--and meant it. I went on to explain that if she were willing to learn the craft, apply techniques, and take constructive feedback, she'd grow as a writer.
The truth of the matter is without the "if" part of the equation, her chances are slim. But with some literary elbow grease and a sincere desire to learn, I believe all things are possible. Call me an optimist, but I've seen it happen enough times to make a believer out of me.
I left her with one final piece of advice: "Don't give up on your dream!"
And I meant that, too.