Confronted by an absolutely infuriating review, it is sometimes helpful for the victim to do a little personal research on the critic. Is there any truth to the rumor that he had no formal education beyond the age of eleven? Was he ever arrested for burglary? – Jean Kerr
On February 12, 2016, I wrote myself a note that said I was going to be a writer and never mind the madness I endure to get there. I had given up on my childhood dream for a decade, and I couldn’t remember why. I decided then that I am a writer at that moment, and I will write. It may not work out, but it’s going to be one hell of a ride. It has been, and I’ve discovered myself, my family, and my voice buried under a decade of neglect. The hardest lesson since February 2016 was how to handle critiques. I joined an online critique group, and man people were honest but mean. They gave no helpful advice; they just said everything was wrong. For a novice writer, where do you turn? I turned to more formal creative writing classes and reading up on craft, tons of reading on craft actually. It paid off, and the criticism I received my teacher and other students helped my craft and confidence. I’m glad I didn’t give up after those first critiques, and I learned that many online critiques by other writers, are the writers trying to rewrite my story the way they would write it – not all writers but many.
As an painter and drawer, I want criticism. It helps me grow, and I know what criticism to take and use when it comes to painting and drawing. However, with writing, I’m still learning the craft, and the critiques leave me flustered. Right now, I try to leave questions for my critics, and please always feel free to answer them. Was there any moment that wasn’t clear or understandable? Are the characters interesting? Are you relating to any of the characters? Was there any moment when the perspective didn’t make sense or changed suddenly? I’m beginning to learn what to use from critiques and what not to use, but it’s an area where I’m still growing. Often, like Jean Kerr, I wonder about my critic’s background check would yield? When I leave a critique, I stick to three basic rules: one positive comment for every negative – keep it balanced, talk about the writing and not the writer (don’t use “you”), and leave a suggestion for every problem I point out (help them grow). It’s what I teach my art students, and it’s what I try to do as a painter, drawer and writer.
What other writer’s and artists, do you like receiving critiques? When did critiques help you grow the most?
Have a wonderful weekend everyone, Biz Boston.