Friday, May 31, 2013

Critiquing Fear

It’s the first day of a new study period for university. I click eagerly through the university website, glancing through the course outline. For my introduction, I have to introduce myself as a character. Well, that’s  different. And then…

I have to critique someone else’s introduction.

At once the panic starts to rise. Help! Critique someone’s work? But I’m not very good at writing myself. I don’t know how to give a good critique. I don’t want the other students to hate me for pointing out faults in their work. I’m having a panic attack and I haven’t so much as clicked the mouse yet.

It’s a funny thing, but no one seems to like giving critiques. My course is a creative writing course, and yet everyone is saying ‘Oh your work is wonderful. I love such-and-such about it’, and nothing else. Which is all very nice to hear. I can’t help smiling and feeling just a little bit clever. But at the same time, comments like these aren’t going to make me into a better writer. They’re just going to give me a big head.

So, if I realise that this is not the way to help people, why do I feel bad when I post a critique that both praises and criticizes a piece of writing? I might not have a piece of paper that tells me I’m qualified to help other people with their writing, but I can tell them what didn’t work for me. It’s an opinion, nothing more.

I think that this fear of critiquing someone’s writing comes from fear that I’m going to hurt the other person’s feelings. Even when I’ve spent an hour writing and rewriting the same hundred and fifty words over and over trying to phrase the critique in a way that I hope won’t offend, I’m still worried that I’m going to be making them feel like their work is terrible. I’ve had enough bad days of my own where I think that my writing is terrible to want to give anyone else a day like that.

But saying that everything is perfect, that’s not the way to help anyone improve. If we were all perfect already, why would we be taking this course? So I write and rewrite that critique over and over again, trying to word it just right, trying to gently show the other people where they might improve their writing and make it stronger. Not to say that I’m any good at this. It’s true, I’ve never done this before. But if I truly want to help the other person, I need to show them the good and the bad, in the nicest way possible. Critiques, they don’t seem to be easy things to write, but they are necessary if we're to grow as writers.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

April Adventures Successes

Before April started, I wrote a post about all the adventurous things I was taking on in April. And honestly, there were a lot. I looked at my list and couldn't believe how many things I was doing. What was I thinking? Well, to tell the truth, I wasn't thinking. Not until it was too late.

Still, I had signed up for all those things, and I wasn't about to give up now. So I went to it with a will, determined not to fall behind in anything. Surely I could manage that? Well, maybe...

April Camp NaNo was the easiest of the challenges. Even aiming for a higher goal than the usual 50 thousand words I found it fairly easy to keep up with the required minimum of words. Writing first drafts of novels is the best part of novel writing to me.

The A-Z challenge was harder. Being me, I wasn't prepared at all. I didn't even sign up until a few days before. I had no idea of what to write. Every evening I sat at my desk and tried to come up with something interesting to say, with varying amounts of success.

And then there were university assignments that had to be written and submitted on time. Music practices to be done. Family to attempt to see more than just at meal times. So many things to do in a day.

And did I manage it? Yes I did. I didn't miss a day with the A-Z challenge. I completed my April Camp NaNo word count. I did my music practices, submitted my assignments, and even managed to remember I had a family every once in a while. April was a huge success.

After all that hard work in April, I took a blogging break for the first two weeks of May to recharge. Which means I'm terribly behind with the lovely comments that people have left me. My apologise, and thank you to everyone who has left a comment. I'm working moderating and answering them all as fast as I can.