Being Critiqued, Part Three

I already wrote about being critiqued not once, but twice, (you can read the first two posts here and here.)  But I had another thought about the whole process.  Dying to hear it, aren’t you?  Just what you’ve been desperate to read on this last official Saturday of summer?  Here goes:

It’s all about the work. 

That’s all you have to remember.  It’s about the work, not you.

When my children were little, there were occasional dreadful events that were command performances for parents: pre-school picnics with a bunch of snotty people you didn’t know; birthday parties, field trips where you got paired with other parents to chaperon.  (I may be exaggerating the dreadfulness of it all the wee-est bit, but still.  You get the gist.)

The way I would endure these events was to remind myself, its not about me, I’m doing this for Annie.  Or Lewis.  And once I took the focus off worrying about myself and how I would be getting along and onto my children, my whole attitude changed and usually I ended up enjoying myself (well, maybe not at the birthday parties).

The same thing works for critiquing.  Just remember it’s not about you, it is about the work.  It is about making your work as strong and readable as possible.  I believe that most good pieces of writing come through us as much as they come from us, and believing that makes it a bit easier to disassociate yourself from the critiquing process.

The ideal would be for you to be able to be completely neutral about the writing as it is critiquing.  I am now wiping tears of mirth from my eyes, after laughing for five minutes at the mere thought of that being possible. 

But barring that, try to separate yourself from the work as much as possible.   This pains me to admit, but when my defenses are up during a critique, I start making judgments about the critiquer.  If they are talking about making my dialogue more realistic, I’ll be thinking, as if you use the Queen’s English yourself, sissy.

Or if someone is commenting on a character’s actions, I’ll think darkly, after three divorces and two failed engagements, you think you know about relationships?

You get the drift.

This is the wrong way to handle criticism.  This is taking the critique personally, because in judging others, you are only judging yourself. 

I’m not saying that anyone else ever does this, but just in case you do, stop right now.  Take the focus off yourself and put it back onto the work.  How can you make the writing as readable and clear and lively for the reader as possible? 

This is the only thing you should be focused upon.

And once you’ve mastered this, let me know.  We’ll see if we can bottle it and make a quick million, okay?

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4 Comments on "Being Critiqued, Part Three"

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Crystal
Guest
09/02/2007 10:40

I hate being in the position of GIVING crits. I tried to do it recently, and the person being critiqued actually started arguing with me about what I was saying…and then started arguing with the NEXT person who gave her some crits…etc. I’m a recent college grad and so am used to an academic setting for writing workshops, wherein the prof would mediate and folks being critiqued were not allowed to speak during the crit.

At the time, I found that annoying…but I think I’m beginning to understand its purpose! 😉

Charlotte
Guest
09/02/2007 11:21

Hmmm, you just gave me an idea for another post, focusing on how to give a critique. Thanks! In most academic workshops, the rule is that the person being critiqued cannot talk. This is often very difficult for that person, but from your own experience, it is easy to see why it became a rule! I do like the ebb and flow of communication when the critiquee is allowed to talk, but man, it can get out of hand easily, as in your experience.

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