Friday, July 5, 2013

The Thing About Critiques

So most of you have probably heard me mention that I'm a speech coach. (I'm kind of proud of it, of my team.) Well, there is a lot of critiquing with speech. I critique my kids everyday in practice, plus at the meets I write a critique for every kid I judge. Each kid participates in three rounds, so they get three critique sheets back from every meet. More if there are final rounds. And I write six to eight critiques each round.

We all know critiques are subjective. We all know what one person doesn't like, or doesn't quite get, someone else will think is awesome. It's important to really consider every critique you get, but it's okay to disagree with them, too.

But that's not what I want to talk about today.

The thing with critiques is that we critique different people differently. (Usually without thinking too much about it.) When I have new kids on my team I focus on the basics. Slow down, look up more. SLOW DOWN! ;) Because if I was as hard on them as I am on the older kids I would scare them, or make them feel bad, and they'd probably quit.

The better these kids get the pickier I can be. I've made kids stop and say the same line back to me in practice over and over again before. But the kids are cool with that. They like it, actually, because they know that's what it takes to get better, and they like perfecting their piece.

This transition from not being picky to being crazy picky happens gradually. Usually.

Sometimes I get a kid who gets good too fast. :) Then I need to stop and let them know, "Hey, I'm not being so hard on you because you stink. It's because you are awesome and I think you can handle it."

This is true when I give critiques on writing, too. The better the writing, the more nit-picky I am. But it occurs to me that sometimes when we critique others writing, we don't know where they are in their journey.

So this is me telling you, the next time you get a critique where you feel they have torn you apart, it's probably not because you stink. It's because you are good. It's because they see the potential for just how awesome your ms can be. It's because they think you can handle it. Because you rock. :)

Have a great weekend everyone!

24 comments:

  1. That's a great way to look at it. Yes, the more advanced, the better we should be, thus the more intense the critique.

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  2. Wow, thanks, Rachel. I never would have thought of it in this way.

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  3. But I can't handle it!!!

    Seriously though, I agree with Alex and Karen. It's a great way to look at the situation.

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  4. I agree. I critiqued a sub for a high school student once who'd done a homeschool fiction writing curriculum. She was good. I told her at the beginning of my crit that I had planned to go easier on her, but because her writing was so good and I saw some serious talent, I was tougher.

    And you're right about the newbies. If we marked everything that needed to change, we'd overwhelm them and have them crouched and crying in a corner.

    Great post! :)

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  5. Great post and I totally agree!

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  6. I hadn't thought about that aspect of it. I've gotten a couple of zingers lately, and I'm hopeful it means they think there's something there. Writing is such a crazy hard endeavor.

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  7. It's hard to know how picky to be, isn't it? If we don't point out faults then we're not much help, but if we're too negative and destroy a person's confidence then that's not helpful either.

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  8. That's a great lesson you just shared. People who critique actually care.

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  9. That's a good point. We need to consider the level of that person before we critique.

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  10. I feel like my chapters have been ripped to shreds lately and I'm really trying to build up a thick skin but sometimes its hard. This makes me feel a little bit better. I must be doing something right if they have so much to say. :-) Thanks.

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  11. I love looking on the positive side and I think this is perfect!

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  12. You are a wonderful and very balanced critique partner. I don't think you have ever been too hard on me. Oh no, maybe that's because I'm just not that good yet, LOL!! :)

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  13. Agree 100%. I don't dig in at all when it comes to the pieces that need the most help, because I feel like it would be too overwhelming and the author would react by assuming I'm mean and therefore nothing I say is applicable. With people who need a LOT of help, I look at their work, identify two or three things they seem to be developing as strengths, identify a couple things they should work on, and tell them to keep writing. Writing (and, of course, reading) will help them become better writers, while pointing out all the problems will not.

    I tell people the same exact thing you do when I'm about to beat their manuscripts up. I tell them I'm being so picky because they're that close to being ready. If someone's working on a piece that they're planning to pursue publication for and I think they actually have a chance, I show no mercy. That doesn't mean I'm mean about it, of course. I'm just unforgiving. If you get that kind of attention from me it means you were worth it.

    High five!

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  14. Hi Rachel! New fan and follower. I'm glad you stopped by and commented, because I wouldn't have found you otherwise. Love your blogging style and love the knowledge you bring to the table!

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  15. This is a great point. I grew up playing sports, being in choir, and being in school musicals, all of which involved critiquing. I learned pretty quickly that it was always for my benefit so I kind of just rolled with it.

    No matter how good you are everyone could always stand to improve a little. Have a good weekend!

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  16. I agree - we do look at different writing and critique is based on what it needs! We can all improve on something. That's why I always get several different people to critique something I write since everyone catches different things.

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  17. Awesome post. I never thought of it that way, but I am harder on the very good writers. :)

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  18. That's a great idea, to let them know, explain the nitpickiness. After working mostly with people who want to be ripped apart, it's easy to forget you can't do that with everybody.

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  19. Such a good point! I worry about crossing this line all the time--with my students or with other writing people. It's tough! I really try to balance comments with positives, just in case, but I don't know if that always works. Heavens knows I've been on the receiving end of plenty of rip-to-shreds critiques that make me wonder what on earth I'm doing :)

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  20. Thank you for this post! It reminded me of my own journey with writing, and teaching writing, and the critiques I've received and given. I am far harder on the kids I teach who are already showing huge progress because I'm so impressed that I think they can handle more. I'll try to remember that next time I get a huge, picky critique of my own writing.

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  21. love this analysis & analogy! learning rates, preferences, everything is subjective in learning. except math! thats why i liked it so much in school, i knew the answer and if i got it wrong i knew why

    sorry, a bit of a tangent! ha!

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  22. Oh, good food for thought today! Don't think I've ever thought of critiques quite this way before, but you're so right about it...

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