01 August 2012

IWSG: The terror inherent with new critique partners

This post is in participation with hundreds of insecure writers who dedicate the first Wednesday of every month to post about insecurities: doubts and fears that we have or have conquered. Check out the Insecure Writer's Support Group for more information and a list of the other participating writers.

Back in June, I talked about my thesis revisions and self-imposed deadlines. I'm in a holding pattern until the thesis class starts and I find out what the schedule is for the semester, at which point it'll be externally-imposed deadlines (which I'm quite good at) rather than self-imposed (utter crap).

Due to the whole thesis-revision thing, I've recently sent excerpts to various people to solicit feedback. Sometimes, sharing my work in this way feels risky: when it's someone I haven't exchanged critiques with before, the whole thing turns into a giant question mark. Exchanging critiques can change your entire relationship with a person. It's taking a risk in that way, and it can be more personal. 

I've got a friend's draft right now that I haven't given much feedback on yet because I'm trying to figure out exactly what to say, and how to say it. I know the history behind the piece, and I know this person has invested a lot of love into it -- you have to make sure that anything you say isn't calling someone's baby ugly. You don't want it to come across like that. And if you haven't worked with someone before, you don't know how they handle critiques.

So I can guess why some people have held back. I can guess that they want to make sure I don't think they're calling my baby ugly. Also, it can be a lot of work to do a thorough critique, and sometimes people just don't have that kind of time and they don't want to give you shoddy feedback. That's fair.

But I feel like it's a risk worth taking. They might take a risk in return and give some great critical feedback that will allow me to consider my writing from a different perspective. I might gain a new critique partner. The worst thing that can happen is we end up resenting each other for criticizing each other's babies. But I really have a hard time seeing that actually happen.

How do you feel about requesting a critique from a new person?