how do you share your talent without seeming pompous?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Micah Cohen, Oct 13, 2004.

  1. Micah Cohen

    Micah Cohen Screenwriter

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    Say you do something well; it's your job. You fix engines, organize closets, write well-crafted sentences. Say you see someone doing what you do, and doing it well enough, but not as well as you could do it. You don't want to make any judgments, you don't want to insult that person, but you have an overwhelming urge to help them do what they are doing (which is what you happen to do well). You want to goose them on to the next level of what they are doing by injecting some of the stuff you know how to do. How do you do this without being presumptuous or insulting? I have never mastered this.

    Here's why I ask. I'm a writer and editor by trade. It's sometimes not an easy thing to be, since practically everyone believes they, too, are writers. Look at all of us here, writing away! Anyway, I rely on Tim Dirks' "Greatest Films" website, filmsite.org. As HTFers, you're probably familiar with it. It has amazingly detailed and contextual reviews of the greatest films ever made. Tim has been doing this for years, and he does it really well; this is some of the best film writing online. I was reading through it yesterday, thinking about some of the movies I might watch for Halloween, and I was reading his write-up on the eponymous HALLOWEEN. I felt that it was missing some of the verve of some of his other write-ups, and I desperately wanted to goose it along. I even rewrote some bits of it for myself just to see if I was kidding myself or not.

    Tim writes:

    "...When Dr. Loomis walks over to look down from the balcony, the camera peers down to view the corpse. Even after being stabbed three times by Laurie (with domestic tools: knitting needle, coat-hanger, and kitchen knife), lethally shot six times, and suffering a second-story fall, the super-human body has vanished into the dark night...."

    An amazing pivotal moment in the film, in effect the setup for the chilling feeling with which the film leaves you. But I think it goes more like this:

    ....Loomis looks down from the balcony and sees Michael Myers' body twisted on the ground two stories below. He leans back and looks around the room. Michael has been stabbed three times by Laurie (with the most domestic of tools: knitting needle, coat hanger and kitchen knife), shot six times by Loomis, and suffered a second-story fall. But when Loomis looks over the balcony ledge one last time, Michael Myers' body has vanished into the dark night....

    I have been working on an email to Tim for days now, trying to get the tone of it just right. I am not happy with my attempts. How do I suggest to someone who's been doing something for years and is good at it, that I can help him add some polish here and there that would make what he does even better without sounding insulting or pompous?

    Any advice?

    MC
     
  2. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Hehe, I was wondering about the link too.

    As for deleting it, bandwidth ain't free.

    --
    H
     
  3. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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  4. Micah Cohen

    Micah Cohen Screenwriter

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    Thanks Patrick! I never even noticed it; I guess I'm not mousing over many posts! That's pretty ingenius, if I say so myself. I hate it and think it's terribly intrusive, but it's pretty ingenious. Oh well, I'll deal. Doesn't detract from my original topic, anyway.

    Hopefully I'll get some good advice from you folks.

    I wonder if Tim reads this forum?

    MC
     
  5. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Because you are a stranger to Dirks, I don't know if there's a good way of offering your suggestions/advice. You may share the same profession, but you don't really know each other. If you met or exchanged emails for a length of time and established some kind of relationship first, I think it would go over better. Sending an email cold like that, no matter how well intentioned or well written, would rub most people the wrong way, on some level. If you choose not to establish some rapport with him first, I would just trust he already has colleagues he relies on for advice and let it be.
     
  6. Michael Martin

    Michael Martin Screenwriter

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    Michah:



    I am also a professional writer/editor, and can understand your desire to help out. Generally, though, this is a bad idea.



    First, as you pointed out, a lot of people consider themselves good writers (or at least can't accept constructive criticism of their writing) despite being barely able to consistently conjugate irregular verbs.



    Second, if someone does write for a living (or a hobby, as online), unless you have an established, strong relationship with them, your "suggestions" can easily be received as more 'Net nitpicking.



    I'd let it go.
     
  7. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    In a more sensible world doing such a thing might be seen as a service. As it is, however, correcting the grammar of other people outside of a professional or parental role is considered very rude. I wouldn't even do it with friends unless explicitly asked.
     
  8. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    To answer the general question, I typically don't give my advice. It's hard to refrain from telling people how to do things better, but I've found it to be for the best. There are exceptions, however, but these would include things that can cause harm to themselves or others. If I were at the gym and saw someone lifting weights incorrectly, possibly causing injury, I might let them know a better way to lift the weights. But for something as innocent as text on a webpage, I think I'd just bite my tongue.
     
  9. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I'm just waiting for somebody to mess up here! [​IMG]
     
  10. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    This has been debated on HTF before, but I still belong to the camp of "two spaces after a period". Sorry, that's the way I type and it's not going to change. All my professors require two spaces, the grammar handbook I use says I need to do it that way, and that's the way I've been taught. In fact, last year was the first time in my life I heard someone say you should only use one space.
     
  11. Micah Cohen

    Micah Cohen Screenwriter

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    See how touchy people can be?



    Double-spacing is typewriter, single space is computer. There's no other way to do it. You don't see double spaces in books and newspapers, magazines or brochures. Electronic publishing automatically spaces correctly. Double spacing is a holdover from typing days. (So, maybe in academia you are required to do it for editing reasons. Or, maybe just because professors are still typing with typewriters?)



    Need real proof? Check out the writing guide, "The PC Is Not A Typewriter," by Robin Williams. Who I guess is not the comedian.



    Anyway, I think this proves that you are all correct about my thinking it's okay to offer my services...



    [​IMG]



    Now, how come these posts are showing up all double spaced instead of just "single return"?



    MC
     
  12. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    Nah, not being touchy. [​IMG]



    Not going to argue, but I've never typed on a typewriter. I first learned how to type on a computer and then when I took a keyboarding/typing/letter writing/everything else class, on a computer, we were taught to use double spacing.



    It's just one of those things that I think is acceptable either way.
     
  13. Andy_G

    Andy_G Stunt Coordinator

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    An aside: I've found that a rough and ready way to guess the age of a writer is to look for the number of spaces that he uses after a period. Not many people under 30 use two.



    Also, The Mac is not a Typewriter is my source for "the rules" of desktop publishing. The author, Robin Williams, suggests that unless one is using a monospaced font, one should use one space after a period. Word processing programs know how to kern the text correctly; using two spaces after a period on a standard font (e.g. Times) interrupts the program's ability to work correctly.
     
  14. Ted Lee

    Ted Lee Lead Actor

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    how about you email him and ask *his* opinion? let him know you're a fan and you were just wondering how he would take your phrasing? who knows ... it may lead to a friendship. at worse, he'll call you a pompous ass for thinking you can write better then him. [​IMG]



    ------



    as far as the general question goes, i also just hold back. unless someone was going to do something that i saw as potentially fatal ... then i'd probably mention it.



    in person, it's a lot easier to be "humble" about your opinion. you can "act out" your humbless (in your facial expressions, body language, etc) to show that you're not trying to be a pompous arse.



    pretty much all my friends know i'm into ht and i've been "called out" on my knowledge more then a few times during some social setting. i've always tried to be as humble as possible, while still providing solid info. afaik, no one has ever seen my replies are pompous.



    ----



    even though i *know* htf truncates my spaces, i still type two spaces when i'm composing a post. i'll use two spaces till the day i die!
     
  15. Micah Cohen

    Micah Cohen Screenwriter

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    I did take a typing class on an actual typewriter in high school. But Stephanie Sinise sat in front of me. She was tall and had long black hair and the most incredible deep coal black eyes I think I had ever seen. Her boyfriend was this horrible thicknecked jock, but every once in a while she might ask me something; she'd turn around and start speaking at me and I'd just sort of go into a trance, lose oxygen to my brain. Gad, I loved her. I was stricken. I failed typing.



    I hunt and peck like a madman. But I'm a big fan of Kerning.



    And I wonder where Stephanie is now... I hope she's unhappy without me. Or has a mustache.



    MC
     
  16. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    See how pompous people can be?



    Your post is proof positive of why you should not offer your services. The knowledge, you may have. The tact? Not so much.
     
  17. Bob Graz

    Bob Graz Supporting Actor

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    Sounds like you should be mentoring, volunteering or teaching. All very good ways to use your talent in a very positive and helpful way.
     

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