A few years ago when I was a brand new writer, I was in a critique group. It was amazing. The members were a mix of published and wannabe and all of us were hungry to learn. When we did learn a new skill, some of us *cough* tended to think that was the best way to do it. Or the only way. *cough again* We zealously shared our new found tricks of the trade, sometimes, running roughshod over the feelings of others, without meaning to. One of our members, Janet Elizabeth Jones, shared a wonderful essay with us about how harmful that can be. Without being critical or judgmental, she opened our eyes to the nature of sharing gently among writers. It changed my life. I have her permission to reproduce it here.
When Critiquing Another’s Work
Let me be mindful that this piece I hold in my hand symbolizes a fellow writer’s hard labor, hopes, tears, dreams, aspirations, and trust.
Let me not forget for a moment that her ambitions are no less fierce, full of promise, or all-consuming than my own, that her faith in me is precious, regardless of where she’s been or where’s she’s going.
Let me always remember that nothing I have to say about this piece or the fellow writer who wrote it is as important as the inspiration she felt to set these words down.
Let me show in my words and actions the single, simple truth–that no opinion or critique I can give, no granite-hewn, all-powerful words of wisdom I think I possess, are one-tenth as important as preserving her spark of inspiration.
However harsh her words may seem to my ears, however unfamiliar the images she paints to my uninitiated eyes, however the fruit of her creativity may try me, dare me, or challenge me to see the world through her eyes–her spark of inspiration must not go out.
Because one of these long, weary nights, after hours of struggling to put my own words down, after my muse has deserted me, the stresses of life have defeated me, and my own fire has fizzled out to a cold pile of ash, I’ll go in search of her, and I’ll hope and pray that I find her fire still burning bright enough to light my own again.
Janet Elizabeth Jones
Janet is my business partner at The Author’s Secret and performs ebook conversion services. She turns our clients’ manuscripts into lovely Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and other types of files. She also created our very beautiful, interactive website.
Revenant, by Janet Elizabeth Jones
Talisen is in love with a man who died 200 years before she was born.