Wednesday, November 4, 2009

To Critique or Not Critique, That Is the Question....

I recently attended a workshop that revolved around writing and finishing a novel. We had the option of signing up for a critique group during this weekend.  Much to my surprise it was a great experience.  Invaluable, in fact.  But even still, the topic of critiquing leaves me feeling like I want to rant.

Luckily, the people that I was in the critique group were all fantastic.  They gave criticism, but constructive to the point that I find some of their opinions have really helped my work.  In fact, they were nice enough NOT to say right out loud, to my face, "That's a stupid secret!"  When I unveiled the secret surrounding my story.  Instead, they gently offered their opinion that maybe I find something interesting??  This feedback lead me to go back to the hotel, have a stiff drink and realize they were dead on right. My secret sucked.  Big time!  

In the car the next morning, while hubby was driving me to my workshop, I told him about the secret, about how the group politely said it sucked.  His response: When did you write that???? That's REALLY stupid!! You can think of something better than that!  (Did I mention that he's always brutally honest with me?)

Luckily, the secret is something that even I haven't known the truth of up until this point, so changing it only requires the rewrite of the last few chapters (drop in the bucket at this point).
So I went home and got to thinking up a brand new one. I went up to my bedroom and decided I was going to lie there, like a person on a psychiatrist couch and think of something really good! 

It took me all day Sunday, but I did it. 

(By the way, I ran it by hubby....he loved it.)

Now, don't get me wrong, this critique experience was not a walk in the park (I'm using a cliche..If I ran this blog posting by a critique group, they'd hang me by my toenails).  There were some suggestions that I flat out refuse to even entertain.  Nope.  I know it in my heart.  I change that, I change my character, I change the story, and I'm not doing it.  Let's be honest, comments like that as easy as they are to throw out of your mind, can irritate the living crap out of you.  

What's not easy to throw out of your mind (and still irritate) are the comments/suggestions that you're not really sure about.  Those were and will be tough to deal with.  These are the decisions that require a writer to dig deep and totally make a decision based on gut, inner voice.  

So of course with all this, I got to thinking philosophically about it.  What does it say about a person who is able to pour their deepest, innermost intimate thoughts and feelings out on paper and then be....criticized?    

I guess that's the nature of artists...

Or is it the nature of human beings?  

Maybe being critiqued is the only way we know how to learn?  School is like one big critique session, isn't it?   And then we graduate and get a job.  And what happens in our jobs:  We work hard, put forth a great amount of effort just to have a "boss"  give us a review, telling us what we do well and what we need to improve.  Sounds like a critique to me...

So maybe my rant isn't worth raving about.  Maybe I've just been feeling too sensitive, too impatient, too possessive of my work.  

Okay, I can live with that... 


Mary Driver said...

A tough critique is always hard to deal with, especially since we, as writers or artists, are sensitive by nature. It's good, however, when the critique gets to you and makes you realize that someone else has seen something (or not seen something) in a way you didn't expect. Lately, I feel I'm getting to be slightly masochistic when it comes to critiques. After all,it might prevent the only thing worse-- an outright rejection.
(To see my reaction to one of those, have a look at

2KoP said...

"Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs." — Christopher Hampton

Oh, wait, you said critiques. Never mind.

Critiques confuse me. I tell myself that they are welcome and important, but my first reaction is always defensiveness. I have had to imagine virtual duct tape across my mouth so I can listen attentively and receptively to critiques of my work. It takes practice.

Have fun on Saturday. I'm so jealous.

2KoP said...

P.S. Why aren't you posting links to your blog on Facebook? I'm posting this one.