constructive criticism

Just finished typing up feedback for three classmates who were brave enough to submit their writing for review.  Writing criticism has me walking on eggshells, because my repeated experience is that much as people may ask for feedback, they don’t want to hear it.  So anything that smacks of “criticism” has to be very gently offered, if it is offered at all.

More importantly, even in the minority of cases that the artist is open to receiving and learning from feedback, the relationship between the feedback giver and the recipient is invariably strained.  (And yeah, I do try to bookend my suggestions with genuine praise.)  So I can help someone, but no longer be their friend.  Not a good deal.

So, whence comes change, if not from the advice of others?  Maybe, as the hot dog vendor said, it must come from within.

If there’s a better solution, I’d like to hear it.

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5 Responses to “constructive criticism”

  1. susan Says:

    Nanowrimo. Are you going to do it? Come on. Try. I know you are working on non-fiction but… I think it is the antidote to criticism. The truth is that I think you learn a lot more from writing a whole lot and reading things you like with a careful eye (like my friend at Wonderfarm has been doing with her Year of Excellent Essayists) than you do from criticism.

    http://patriciazaballos.com/2009/10/09/september-notes-on-mfk-fisher/

  2. susan Says:

    Rockin’! See you there.

  3. threegirlpileup Says:

    I will start off by saying that most of the writing I have done in my life is expository rather than creative, but I think the same rules apply. I have certainly felt very tender about writings that I’ve put in the hands of others, and have had a wide range of experiences with their feedback. It seems to me that the key is having a relationship of trust with the person offering feedback. If you know that the person is on your side and truly wants to help you create a better piece of work, then it’s so much easier to hear what they have to say. And the process ends up being more collaborative, rather than someone stepping in from outside and telling you what you’ve done wrong. Does that make any sense?

    • knightstango Says:

      Thanks – that really helps clarify things. One implication may be that opening up to feedback is tough in a short course, where I lack a long-term relationship with my instructor or classmates. Fortunately, I do have longer/trusting relationships with other writers, and I’ve just started to exchange pieces with them.

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