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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Giving and Taking Criticism Part Two: Welcoming the Critic

Remember my statement in part one: I believe very strongly that writing should not be competitive. This statement is the premise of this post.

Begin to welcome the critic by thinking very carefully before you hand over a piece of your writing to critics. By “think carefully”, I mean think clearly, deeply, and analytically. The act of handing over is the act of letting go. The physical act is letting go of your words, your craft, but the internal act is letting go of your ego. So the first question you have to ask yourself is, why am I seeking critical feedback? If you are looking for praise and recognition, then you aren’t at all ready to let go.

Prepare to Let Go

1) Ask yourself these questions:

· Why do I want critics to read this?

· What problems do I have with this piece of writing?

· What questions do I want to answer as a result of objective feedback?

2) Trust your reader(s)

· Seek critics whose writing you admire

· Seek critics who have skills and talents you either do not have or that are not particularly your strengths

· Seek critics who are honest

· Seek critics with whom you have a trusting relationship

· Seek critics with whom you share a mutual admiration and respect.

3) Open your heart and mind

· Touch your manuscript and give it a blessing in whatever manner fits your style

· Remind yourself that whatever happens, you and your manuscript will survive.

· Think about the transformation from good to great. No matter how “great” you think your work is now, choose to believe that greater is its potential.

Once you have mentally and emotionally prepared yourself to let go, then do it. Turn it over to the critics and wait.

The hardest part is over once you let your writing go to the critics. When you get the writing back filled with red marks and comments, you should be excited, provided you did your homework and properly prepared yourself for this moment.

Read the comments with a completely open heart and mind. This means that when you read questions written by the critic, you answer them, both in your mind and in writing. And when you see that the critic has changed a word or words, altered sequence or revamped your punctuation, you read the changes and consider them. Read them out loud. Think about them as objectively as you can. Read them again and again.

Finally, make changes from that place in your gut (instinct, intuition, not emotional defense) where you know what is right. Don’t judge the critic, and don’t ruminate over the suggestions as if they are personal insults. Simply make the changes that you are inspired to make and let the others go.

PS – Don’t forget to thank the critics for giving you their time and energy to read your work.

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