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Monday, April 7, 2014

Feeding Us Criticism




If anyone is serious about anything in the arts, she's going to get criticized. And she should. The truth is, artists need criticism. Otherwise we can't fully hone our skills. We need people to feed it to us.

Some people say that "writers get a thick skin." I'm not sure I believe that. With the arts--whether it's writing, animation, painting, or dance--we also need to keep ourselves vulnerable, because art is all about opening up to others. Often the best art is vulnerable, in that it lets others connect with the artist's mind and soul.

So artists need two things: they need criticism and they need to be vulnerable. This can lead to hurt feelings. But, generally speaking, those feelings are the artist's responsibility, not the critic's. The artist needs to learn to deal with them, because he will feel them over and over again throughout his career. He needs to learn to take criticism.

So when we ask for feedback, give it to us. People think they might help by not telling us what they don't like, but in long-run, they're hurting. They're hurting our art and our personal growth.

We need critics who aren't afraid of hurting our feelings. We need critics who are okay when our feelings are hurt.


Methods for Feeding Us Criticism




With that said, there are ways to soften the impact for us if a critic is going to say something we don't like to hear. First, there is a difference between being honest and being brutally honest. If we ask for your feedback, strive to be honest, but don't feel too bad if you are accidentally brutally honest--frankly, we'll need to learn to deal with that too.

If you know us well, you might want to gauge how experienced we are at writing and getting feedback. Like I said, taking criticism is something we need to learn. With beginners, a critic might want to be a little more indirect and imply what he doesn't like. It's hard being a beginner! Especially when we're aware of how much of a beginner we are. Don't squash a beginner's ambitions by being brutally honest. They're learning. Give them a little space to deal with those feelings.

Second, give us positive feedback with negative feedback. Positive feedback is just as important as negative because it lets us know what is working. Unfortunately, I've been in places where positive feedback was nonexistent. That can hurt us and our art. We need to develop an "eye" for what is working as much as one for what isn't working.

One critique method that works well is the "sandwich method." Sandwich your negative feedback between positive feedback and then end with encouragement.

There may be times when we are in a depression about our work, and we need to hear only positive feedback about our project. But it's our job to tell you that. When some professional writers get in a slump, they tell their reader, "Just tell me what is working." As writers, we need to take care of our mental health so we can keep going. We shouldn't be afraid to do that, even if it means requesting only positive feedback.

Are We Ready for Feedback?


Along the mental health lines, as writers, we might not be ready for feedback on our current project. Guess what? That's okay. I don't like showing my work to others until I feel like I've nearly gotten it to the best of my abilities. Right now, I'm not ready for feedback on my novel, so I don't ask for it. I don't let people read it. And that's okay.

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