I’ve written about critique and trust before, and I still think they are vital for writers groups’ success. I hope you will enjoy this blog again, last published about four years ago.
There is one very important aspect of critiquing not always considered or mentioned – and that is trust. There are two issues at stake here:
- If you as a writer do not trust that the person or people critiquing your work are doing so for your benefit, or will do so with sincerity and sensitivity, you will find it very difficult to expose your writing to them.
- If you are critiquing someone’s work, and are considering writing or saying something that may be construed as harsh – do you trust the writer to take the critique with a positive and gracious attitude?
While it is true that it can take a while to build up this trust, there are some things you can discuss to help the process along. If you’ve been together awhile, and members aren’t getting on very well together; or your group is newly formed or with new members. a talk together about critique would probably help you all. Here are some possible discussion-generators:
- What is critique, and what does it mean to you?
- What value do you each place on critique?
- Talk about your expectations from critiquing. Are each member’s expectations reasonable?
- How are you going to critique and why do you want to do it that way?
- Why you are critiquing, and what benefits can each of you expect?
We all benefit from assurances when we are in a situation in which our personal feelings and thoughts are revealed to others; because – let’s face it – writing involves showing others what is going on inside of your head, and that can be scary. This is particularly the case for newer writers, but anyone can be affected by the resulting nervousness sometimes.
- Each member should be assured that nothing personal goes outside the group.
- Each member needs to assure the others of their intention to benefit everyone else in the group.
- Each member needs to assure the others that they will not get overly upset about comments that they don’t agree with.
We writers tend to be a particularly sensitive lot, and feelings can get hurt easily. While we want the benefit of the critique, we find it hard to accept anything negative that we feel is undeserved.
Critiques are, I believe, the primary area negatively impacting social relationships in the writing group situation, but they are potentially the very best reason for the group to exist at all.