You may want to read up on How To Be A Good Critiquer before reading this. It may help with my perspective on things.
No, no. Take your time. I can wait.
I seem to keep running into the wrong kind of person as a crit partner. They freely tell me everything they believe I’m doing wrong (okay, well, I did ask) and may even include a few off the cuff remarks that read to me as being…ah…well…my first thought was arrogant, but hey, you know what? I did ask that person to take a look-see and they told me what they saw. Maybe I didn’t like it, but there it is.
And this boys and girls, is the second half of the crit partner relationship that tends to piss me off.
People are more than happy to give out, but not so interested in receiving.
You see, there’s a spectrum of critquers. On one extreme end, you have The Asshole. The Asshole takes delight in making you feel like the dumbest shit that ever walked the face of the earth. The Asshole might actually have a point, but it gets lost in the useless noise The Asshole is making in order to make themselves feel superior while the whole time they believe they are “Doing you a favor.” Everyone knows about The Asshole. Everyone has at least one in their critique history.
At the other extreme range, there is The Puppy. The Puppy is not as well-known. The Puppy doesn’t ever want you to feel bad. The Puppy will wag its tail and gush about everything you did. The Puppy might point out a few spelling or grammatical errors, but will usually back it up with “But I’m certain you’d catch that with another pass,” or like statement. The Puppy wants to be your good friend, and is willing to say anything to keep you feeling good.
The True Puppy is just as useless as The True Asshole, as far as critiquers go.
In the middle, you have the guy I’ll call The Pro. The Pro is not necessarily a paid or experienced professional. But The Pro is interested in keeping it professional. This one is sometimes an asshole, occasionally a puppy, but is not going out of their way to make you feel like dogshit or treat you like the genius inventor of edible magic rainbow unicorn pooh. Some of the things they say may come across as arrogant or possibly mean, but if you just set things aside for a bit, and try to take a fresh look, you’ll find that The Pro is not nearly the asshole as The Asshole.
The Pro will not tell you they hated your work. They won’t say “Don’t quit your day job.” They aren’t going to waste their time telling you what a talentless piece of shit you are. Nor will The Pro tell you that there’s nothing to address in your work; they’re not interested in giving you a blowjob or keeping you as a crit partner if you can’t take what you asked for.
This is key: A critique is part rules refresher, and part opinion. Yes, your critiquer agreed to look over your work and tell you the things they saw. Yes, theoretically, they agreed to at least try not to make you feel like a waste of a zygote. However, the goal is not to stroke your ego and pour honey into your ear (which sounds uncomfortable to me), the goal is to help you. The aim of The Pro is to point out areas they think are weak for whatever reason so you can improve.
Once you get past things like spelling, grammar and fact checking, everything else is a matter of taste.
It is up to you to pull on your big girl panties and review said critique with your own critical eye. Chances are, you’ll some find things that will make you say “Well … okay … I can see where they’d get that.” Other things you’ll look at, scratch your head, look at again and then dismiss.
And that’s okay. It’s your work, it’s your choice. And honestly, wouldn’t you rather hear it from someone BEFORE you push your baby out into the world for all the trolls to gang up on and beat to death?
The trick here is you have to be willing to shut your arguing mouth and THINK about what this person is saying/writing. The Pro isn’t interested in starting a fight. “You want my opinion? Okay, here it is. I’ve written all over it for you in different colors and highlighted other sections so you can more clearly read my findings.” The use of red ink and highlighters had nothing to do with your ego and everything to do with making certain you caught the note, because black ink tends to get missed on a background of even more black ink (or digital text on text – whichever – it’s easy to miss if you don’t do something to make your critiques stand out). The fact that The Pro commented all up one side and down the other is not a personal attack on you or your work, it’s what stood out to them for whatever reason that they explain. It’s up to you to decide what you take from the menu of possibilities and issues that are laid out before you and what to leave behind.