April 18, 2021: Admitting Imperfection
I was recently involved in a virtual discussion with a group of writers. A varied group, and topics of discussion were also varied. At one point the topic became critiques and how to use that feedback. I was surprised at the emotion this topic elicited from some of the members of the group.
Several were vehemently opposed to the actual idea of having others critique their work. One even shared that as a writer, her work is her art and that the opinions of others do not matter.
Yes, having others read our work for the purpose of a critique is hard. We become vulnerable and our work, like a child we have birthed, protected, and raised, must now stand on its own. It makes us feel that our imperfections are exposed. It is scary and uncomfortable.
However, it is also an integral part of becoming and being a writer. Critiques can be formal or informal, broad or very specific. And in my opinion, they are all valuable. If you do not ever have others critique your work, you miss out on so many things!
Things you miss out on if you never have your work critiqued:
- The opportunity to grow in your art and craft
o This is that all-important growth mindset. As Tony Robbins has said, “If you are not growing, you are dying.” If you are not seeking to improve yourself as a writer, why are you doing it? While critiques are not the only way to improve your craft, they are a necessary first-step.
- The chance to see your work though another’s eyes
o As writers, we are so immersed in our writing, it is easy to lose perspective. For writing to be successful, there must be that writer/reader relationship. This is a chance to see if the reader of your work is seeing, feeling, and experiencing your words in the way you intended. Critiques can give you that glimpse into a future reader’s reaction.
- The possibility of becoming traditionally published
o In order to be a traditionally published author, you must have your work read and assessed by others. Whether agents, editors, or publishers, there is a long list of people who put their eyes on your work and give you feedback long before the manuscript is ever published. If you are unable or unwilling to put yourself in that position and take that feedback, you are closing the door on a wonderful and fulfilling career pathway as an author.
Sometimes I think the word itself- critique- is the problem. It is so close to the words critical or criticize. Perhaps if we used the word mentor or coach instead, these reluctant writers would be more willing to have their work read by others. To be mentored by another writer. To be coached by a fellow author. Those things sound much less intimidating. They also sound so much more supportive and positive.
With my students, whether at the university or in the elementary school classroom, I am always giving them feedback on their writing. What is working. What is missing. What needs to be reworked. Yes, I am critiquing. But I am also coaching and mentoring. I am helping them find ways to become a better writer.
And that is, after all, the true purpose of a critique. To help you grow as a writer!