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I have to start this by saying I am writing this partly out of guilt because I broke some of my rules recently.  And I kicked myself all evening over it, asking what the hell I was thinking and why I didn't be a better person and even though I've been told 'it's not your fault' I'm like yes it was my fault because I was there and I broke my own rules.  And maybe it's no big deal and I'm overreacting but I broke my own rules.  The rules I made for reasons.

See, I have rules about critiquing.  The first rule is “Don't.”  The second rule is “Don't, except for very rare exceptions.”  And the third rule consists of a method I've developed to keep my own asinine tendencies in check and to ensure I don't trample all over the other person in the name of ARTISTIC CRITQIUE OMMMMG.

But first, let's talk about ego for a moment.  I am going to speak primarily about writing because that is what I'm familiar with, but I think this could also apply to other disciplines.  For the most part, writing is an assumed authority.  Some of us go to school for it, some of us get published, but for the most part the people you're going to be interacting with are self-taught and you are likely also self-taught.  This is by no means a bad thing.  I honestly think the worst stuff I've ever written was while I was in a creative writing program (I was minoring in it before I got fed up and changed my minor to business).  However, it carries with it the danger of assumed authority.

Assumed authority and ego go hand-in-hand.  When we start pretending that we have even the slightest veneer of authority on a subject, that means we have to believe it ourselves.  Deep down we understand that we might not be as great as we think we are, but it's buried under layers of ego, and we have to keep feeding that ego to keep our self-doubt from slipping free and reminding us of what we really are.  We don't want to look in the mirror and admit that what we know might not be as much as we want it to be.  So we feed our ego.  And we do that by forcing our authority onto others.

Ever seen someone just rip someone's work apart in the name of 'making them better'?  I once did that for a little while.  Do you know what that really is?

Rampant insecurity.  Being a bully.

If you're going to critique someone, first take a good long hard look in the mirror.  Figure out where your ego is.  And if you're secretly trying to prove someone, then step aside and say nothing at all.  You  have no business critiquing anyone, because all you will be trying to do is prove your own worth at the expense of someone else.

But if you realize that the only thing you have to offer is an opinion and maybe a few more years of experience, and nothing more, then you might be in a good place to critique.  Just keep an eye on yourself.  Ego is an easy trap to fall into, and I say that because I'm very familiar with it.  It's like this gaping pit and I walk blindly into it on a regular basis and then I'm standing knee-deep in mud at the bottom wondering how the hell this happened.  Again.

Otherwise we just get this masochist relationship where the person is silently accepting their beating because by golly that's what they're supposed to do to make them a better writer!

Bullshit.

If someone walks away from a critique feeling bad about themselves, then you've done a bad job and are a bad person.



Most of us have been taught the compliment sandwich approach to critiquing.  It's a start, but I'm not certain it's enough.  I mean, I pet my dog before I take her to the vet and after we get home, but it doesn't make the fact she's getting stabbed with needles and a thermometer shoved up her posterior any more pleasant while she's there.  But I have sat in on workshops and had my work critiqued – and it wasn't painful.  It was helpful.  No one used the compliment sandwich and I didn't walk away in tears.

How is this possible?

From my own painful experiences with critiquing and being critiqued, I've developed a method that I think works better than the compliment sandwich.  I call it the critique contract.

The goal of this is two-fold.  First, we prepare the person being critiqued to receive it.  Second, we get the person being critiqued engaged in the process so the communication becomes two-way instead of one-way.  (I sword-fight.  Do you know what one-way communication in a sword-fight is?  It's getting your ass handed to you, that's what it is)

Now, I'm going to describe this from the perspective of the person doing the critique.  It works just as well in reverse.  I'll often tell people I'm receiving critique from what I'm looking for feedback on, in order to help guide the entire process and ensure we're both confident in the exchange.  It helps avoid hurt feelings.  So don't feel this is only something the person being critiqued can do.

When I'm approached to critique, I try to ask some very basic questions first.  I ask what they're hoping to get out of this, specifically.  I want to hear things like, 'I'm not certain about the characterization of this one person' or 'I feel my plot has holes in it.'  This allows me to know what to focus my energy on and ensure that they get the best feedback possible, rather than a laundry list of what they did wrong.  No one likes those.  It doesn't help.

If you start bombarding people with everything that can be improved, the person under critique eventually tunes out and just starts nodding, wondering if you're ever going to shut up or if they need to gnaw their leg off to escape.  We can only fix so many things at once.  If you're doing open-ended critique and you start talking about more than two things, you're talking about too much and the person is going to walk away thinking, 'wow, they hated it and I suck at this.'

Even if you sandwich it between compliments.  Don't overwhelm people.  It's how you make them feel shitty about themselves.

By having the person first tell you what they're wanting to improve on, you have that list of one or two things in hand and you can focus on those without going off on a tangent.  But wait, you say!  What if there's some huge thing they really need to address first before the things they pointed out?  Ask them.  Say, 'hey, I found this other thing that you didn't talk about, and was wondering if we could talk about it instead?'  Get their permission.  Make sure they feel in control of this.

The other benefit of having the person tell you what to look at is that they are now thinking about their work critically.  They're examining what they've written and looking at it from your perspective.  This will make them more receptive to what you have to say, because they're already wondering the same things and what you say will either help illuminate their own suspicions or confirm what they're already thinking.  This also softens the blow of the critique.  They get a chance to brace for it and have a vague idea to expect, rather than everything being totally out of the blue.  You're now guiding them down a path they've already taken the first steps onto, and believe me, that's a lot easier on everyone than chucking the person head-first down the ravine.

And the last benefit is that it gives the control of the exchange to the person being critiqued.  They get to say what they want out of this.  They remain in charge.  BUT!  BUT!  That's now how critiques work!

Yes it is.

It's not about you.  You're there for their benefit.

It. Is. Not. About. You.

Okay?  Okay.

Once you've discussed what they want to work on, you're ready to critique.  That's when you can start employing the good ol' compliment sandwich if you like, or, you can borrow another method.  I didn't develop this.  I can't lay claim to it.  It's something a friend of mine does and honestly, he's a far better person than I am, and I someday hope to have half the enthusiasm he does for other people.  It's this: praise enthusiastically.  Be engaged in their writing.  Enjoy it.  Show excitement.  You don't have to say only good things – quite the contrary.  But you do need to be genuinely excited for them when you're saying the bad stuff.

I once had a workshop in which everyone kind of sat up straighter when they got to my piece.  And once I was done reading the first paragraph to remind everyone what I'd written, bam, we were off the to the races.  People were talking over each other to tell me what they thought about it.  There were very little compliments in there.  One guy said it, 'pretty much went off the rails' at one point in the plot.  But people were excited.  Very excited, and it showed.

Brow-beating is when you're reading out your laundry list of what they did wrong.

Critique is when you're totally 100% with them in what they're doing and are looking for things that will make it better, because you WANT it to be better and you WANT them to succeed.  And you're not faking any of that.

It takes some self-examining to get to this point and you have to squash out the hateful parts of you that will get in your way.  If you're critiquing to feed your ego, you won't be able to do this because you'll be thinking about yourself instead of the other person.  I'm not there.  I have to use the compliment sandwich sometimes.  But it's a brilliant goal to aspire to because it means you're putting the other person first and you truly care about them.

Basically, if you can read really bad fanfiction and think, 'wow, this person is really excited about their story' instead of 'omg this is so bad', then you're probably good to go.

Otherwise... compliment sandwich.  And stick to what you agreed to talk about when you made the contract.

But this contract nonsense is so much work!  Well, yes.  And the internet allows us to do drive-by-critiques so easily and they're just so satisfying.  Look – if you really want to critique – you're going to have to work at it.  Take a look at the person that wrote what you want to comment on.  Can you tell how mature they are, both emotionally and as a writer?  Do they take hard looks at their own writing and seem to be receptive to negative comments?  If it's clear the person is not used to being critiqued, then approach them before you say anything negative.  If you're not certain, error on the side of caution.

Unsolicited critique is the worst thing ever.  The absolute worst.  It'd be like me barging into your bedroom and telling you it needs to be vacuumed and you really are too old to sleep with stuffed animals.  (and if someone told me to get rid of my black bear I've had since I was five I'd hit you in the face with my warhammer – YES I HAVE ONE AND IT WILL MESS YOU UP)  But seriously, unsolicited critique is terrible.  I've had it done to me and you know what I got out of it?  My feelings hurt and we then spent the next year trash-talking the person who did it until their comments became an inside joke my friends used to remind me that my art didn't really suck and I should keep doing it.

But but but but this is how you improve as a writer!

Okay.  Are you my editor?  Are you my boss?  Am I professional that has a responsibility to ensure my writing is the best it can be?

Or am I someone doing this in my free time, for fun, and making improvements as I go just like the overwhelming majority of writing on this website?

(I should note that when I say critique, I mean real critique – not just 'hey I like this, but this part confused me' comments)

I don't know how it works in the industry because I'm not a professional.  You don't get the right to criticize me any way you like unless you're paying me and even then, if you're enough of an asshole I'll start looking for another job.  I don't know how we got into this mentality that anyone who submits anything to the internet should be treated like they're omg so serious about what they're doing and it's open season on them, but it's stupid.  Get a grip on reality, people.  We're hobbyists.

Pay attention to the critique options they've selected when they submitted their piece.  If it's default, assume that's a no, unless they look like they're really someone that can handle it.  And ask before you critique.

Otherwise, the only reasonable response to your unsolicited critique will be to give you the double middle fingers as they walk off.



Now what about if you're the person being critiqued?  There's two things to watch out for.  One is you need to be receptive to what is being said and the other is that you need to protect yourself.  The two can come into conflict very easily, so it's a bit of a balancing act.  I recommend not engaging in any action to protect yourself during a critique unless it's getting out of hand.  You can be defensive later, when it's not a knee-jerk reaction.

So how do you be receptive of critique?  Well, you listen.  And if you can, you try and engage in a critique contract before they say anything.  Make it a two-way street.  Ask questions.  Be open to what they say, even if you initially disagree.  Think about it.

You are not obligated to take all of their suggestions.  However, if they are taking the time to do this, you need to show respect to them as well.  Don't brush something off because you disagree.  Consider it – seriously think about it! - and then make changes as appropriate.

Again, you do not have to take all their suggestions.  They are merely suggestions and some will be better than others and some just won't be applicable to what you want to do.

I mean, I once had a workshop class insist that my poem was about masturbation.  That was not where I wanted to take the piece.  I'm still bemused that's where they went with it.  Obviously, I didn't take any of their suggestions.

You mention swords and suddenly everyone thinks about phalli apparently....

Anyway.  

I still had to listen to it and respectfully discuss, and so do you.

But what was this bit about protecting yourself?  So remember my story about trash-talking the person that gave me unsolicited critique?  That's part of protecting yourself.  Sometimes we get someone that is being a terrible boor.  Maybe it's unsolicited critique when you just wanted to show that you did something cool or maybe it's someone that just WON'T SHUT THE FUCK UP.  Yes, you have to listen to people, but you don't have to let them abuse you either.  (remember how I said this is a bit of a balancing act – good luck, seriously, this is a hard balance to get)  Above all, though, be polite.  Chances are the person doesn't realize what they're doing, or if they do, maybe other people won't and you don't want to give yourself the reputation of being the asshole.  Let's run through a way to politely extract yourself.

Let's say someone is just going on and on and on.  (this applies more for in-person critique, it's easier to get out of digital critique)  Politely, but firmly, tell the person you really appreciate everything they've said, but you're not sure you can work on this many things at once.  Reiterate a few points they brought up and say you'd like to take those and work on them, and that you'd be happy to discuss their other thoughts at a later date.  If that doesn't work, just sit there and fix a smile on your face and nod and daydream about how you're going to put them in your novel and kill them horribly.

Look... I'm not always a good person, okay?

This really applies to all sorts of situations.  If the critique is going poorly, get out.  Bail.  Abort.  Find an excuse to end it.  It's not helping you and it's not worth arguing over.  Just walk away.  Politely!  Chances are the person doesn't realize what they're doing.

Now, what was that bit about trash-talking?  How is that polite?  Well... it's not, honestly.  But sometimes you just get your feelings hurt.  Bad.  Yes, it happens to adults.  We go home and cry too.  So how do you deal with that?  Well, the instinct is to trivialize what was said.  You mock it and the person who did it.  Just... be careful with this.  Pick a few friends that you know don't spread gossip and talk it through with them.  Get it out.  Bleed out that poison in the company of a few trusted individuals and then – let it go.  You're done.  Don't hold onto the grudge, once you've gotten it out of your system it'll just fester to keep it going.  

This is why you want to be careful in how you give critique.  If you come across as an asshole, not only will your advice be completely ignored, but it'll probably be thrown into the gutter and pissed on as well.

This is only a temporary buffer.  It's a quick fix.  At some point, you'll need to let go and stand on your own and accept that someone was mean and nasty and that it does not affect your worth as a person.  Once you can do that, you'll be able to not only disregard what was said, but to forgive the person who said it as well.

Believe me, this is a good place to get to.  Strive for it.  You can be friends with someone that once hurt your feelings.



I can't promise that this is magical method that will work every time.  It's just my suggestions as someone that has been on both sides of the fence.  I'd be happy to discuss what you've found works or doesn't work in the comments and see if there's other advice out there.

And if you just totally disagree that we should be nice and take the feelings of the person being critiqued into consideration – look – I have an ego problem and I'm not afraid to use it.  I will happily troll the shit out of you in the comments until one of us gets banned.

No, not really.

I'll just block your sorry ass from commenting on this.

Because I AM that bitch.

(I am able to do that, right?  I've never had to before)
I just let my asshole flag fly free and proud with this one.  Thought I must add that if you're reading this, you're not the people I hold the most venom for.  They don't know I exist.
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:iconxxemi-angel-chanxx:
xxEmi-AnGeL-chanxx Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Oh gosh now I feel a teensy bit horrible for just taking anything and critiquing it... I just assume that anyone wants to improve, you know?
But what can be super annoying is when someone ASKS for feedback and then gets pissed off when you point out a few grammar errors... Come on, if you're going to ask, don't just expect a torrent of compliments. The contract goes both ways.
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Don't feel bad!  Well, feel bad for like... five minutes... then push on and keep going.  I've broken my own rules before and it's always a learning process.  None of us can do it right 100%.

And yes, that is annoying, because it means the person is actually looking for compliments.  That's why I think people should talk about their own work first, so they start thinking about it.  If they say, 'oh, I don't know' or something like that, miiiight be a sign to bail out before you start.
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:iconxxemi-angel-chanxx:
xxEmi-AnGeL-chanxx Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
But how do you get them talking about their own work?
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:iconinfinityyellowa:
InfinityYellowA Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for making this it's really helpful. I think the main problem with critiquing is that people don't or are scared of being commented on. You see, my friend like's to draw a lot(story time) and when I was drawing with her I asked for a comment. She seemed a bit nervous and I asked her why. she said at her old school, she gave a comment about a guy's drawing(in a GOOD constructive way) and he gave her a death threat! I know if you don't want to be critiqued on, that's perfectly okay but I  couldn't believe it when I first heard about it

Anyways nice prose
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Woah, death threat?  Totally unacceptable.  

It is scary to have someone reading your work though.  I know there's a couple people I handed my book over to and was nervous for days while they read it.  Even though I trusted the person.  Even though I've been through the workshopping process before.  It's always scary.  And it's scary to comment on someone else as well, because you don't want to hurt their feelings, you don't want to offend them... I figure if I'm ever uncertain on how the other person will react, best to just say 'no thanks' and walk away.
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:iconinfinityyellowa:
InfinityYellowA Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I know exactly how you feel. I feel more comfortable now since my parents know about my work, but for complete strangers I freak. I don't want them seeing ANY ideas I have in case of them stealing it
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:iconangiee45:
angiee45 Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I like some of what you said. I have a lot of experience with the sandwich. I give compliments and then tell the person what I feel can be worked on too. I like when it becomes a dialogue. My only problem is that it seems like you are coddling the artist too much. When I post things online and people comment or critique it doesn't seem to me like someone coming in my room and commenting on how messy it is. When you post things online you are opening yourself to all the millions of people in your country and around the world who use the internet. It is not someone barging into your room. It is you taking the door or wall off of your room and letting people look in. I think that if you take it on yourself to post things online you have to prepare yourself for the comments. I feel like if you don't want me to say something then turn off the comments.

For me, I always want to hear what people think about my work even if it is not a formal critique. Just the "I like it" comments don't work for me. I also don't want to just hear what I did wrong. I want to know how it made you feel, did it remind you of anything; give me more. It was interesting when you said that people thought your poem was about masturbation. I love those moments when readers see something in your work that you didn't. It just goes to show the diversity of view points.

I think people can be too sensitive about their work sometimes. You can't post work online and act like it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. People are afraid to give bad feedback because they don't want to sound like a jerk or get blocked and so people think that since no one said my work had flaws then it has none. Then when you say something they have a hissy fit over it.

About people just being hobbyists and not taking their work too seriously. I don't believe that. I have hobbies and even though I'm not great at them I have a desire to improve and learn. I learned to knit when my son was born. I know I could never make a living knitting things, but that doesn't stop me form trying to do good. The idea that you would create something and post it online and not care about how good or bad it is makes no sense to me.
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
So in the SCA we've got a bunch of people that do a HUGE variety of hobbies.  And when you get to know someone, you can see what is their passion, and what they just dabble in.  If someone came up to me and was like, 'nice dress but you obviously machine sewed it and this seam isn't straight,' I'd be pretty damn pissed off.  I only dabble in sewing because I have to have something to wear.  Now, if someone came up to me and was like, 'hey, I read your whatever, I thought this part was a bit confusing,' then I'd probably be a bit startled that they're offering the critique without knowing me, but I'd try to engage in a conversation.

On the internet, you can't really tell who is dabbling and who is passionate.  If you look at my gallery, you'll see art and writing, and if you critique my art you'll probably get ignored because I only dabble with it and don't have the time or energy to revise and refine.  I can practice - sporadically - but that's about it.

I've asked people about critiquing their work before and gotten a response like, 'thanks, but I only did this for fun and don't plan on continuing with it.'  I know now to waste my time and we can both move on to more important things.

I have a lot of confidence that people that are passionate about their hobby will seek out improvement on their own.  I've seen it countless times.  It's not up to us to push them along, they can do it just fine on their own.  I have seen, however, beginners and dabblers get their first few attempts crushed so badly that they never touch it again.  That, in my opinion, is a worse result than someone that wants to improve not getting the feedback they could handle.  Basically, I assume everyone is a casual hobbyist until I'm proven otherwise.  It's just safer that way.

And I don't think there's anything wrong with posting your first attempts or bad attempts at something online.  You're showing off what you made.  Very little difference between that and me taking my terrible first embroidery around and showing it to everyone.  Just a different audience.
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:iconangiee45:
angiee45 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
"Now, if someone came up to me and was like, 'hey, I read your whatever, I thought this part was a bit confusing,' then I'd probably be a bit startled that they're offering the critique without knowing me, but I'd try to engage in a conversation."

This is a difference in opinion between you and me. I don't think that someone telling me they found my writing confusing is critique. It is a statement of fact. The fact is "I did not understand what you wrote". That is not insulting. That is an invitation to clarify what you wrote so that a reader can understand it and better appreciate what you wrote. It is also an invitation for you to look at your own work again and make it less confusing. I realize that different people see things differently and the fact that one person was confused by something you wrote does not in itself mean that the work is confusing, but it says something about how others view your work. That is valuable information for a writer or any artist.

As for dabbling in something and being passionate about it. I understand what you are saying. Someone may enjoy a hobby without trying to master it. My point is that if you take enough pride in what you created a drawing, a poem, story, embroidery, or whatever why don't you care enough about it to try to make it good. Not perfect, but your best work for your skill level and level of interest. And if you take your hobby and put effort into it then your viewers will be able to see that and appreciate that. You as the creator of the work can then converse with others about what you did in full confidence knowing that you did your best and will do no more. And even if you don't want to master your hobby, don't you want to learn about it?

Otherwise, if you don't care enough about what you created to do your best, then why display it. I dabble in knitting. I don't display work I am not happy or at least satisfied with. I was proud of myself when I figured out how to knit a pocket according to a pattern. I told my immediate family. I have yet to complete the rest of the sweater. I won't display it. I don't display anything I don't want people to see or talk about. I knit a hat for my son. I made it too big for his head. It's been a few years and it still doesn't fit him. It doesn't anger me when people notice that the hat is too large. I put a lot of effort and love into the hat. I only need him to appreciate that work.

What really annoys me is when someone writes something and posts it online and I can tell that they did not take their own work seriously. I don't expect perfection. I know the majority of writers on the internet are amatures, but most of the time they take the time to present their work well even if it is not well written. A poorly written story can still be packaged well with minimal typos and spelling mistakes. It bothers me when a writer doesn't take the time to spell check or proof read before they post. One story I saw was just one paragraph that switched perspectives without warning and was very confusing to read because of it. With something like that there is no point in leaving a comment because if the writer doesn't care about their work why should you? Bassically, if you don't care enough about your own work to do your best, then why should anyone other than your friends look at it? Why are you showing it to the world? What do you want? Do you want people to just smile and nod politely when you ask if they like it? Do you want attention?

I display my writing because I think I'm a good writer and I want people to acknowledge that. I also want to be critiqued so that I can get better. If you know you are not good at something and have no desire to improve, then why are you publicly displaying your work?

My sister draws and she displays her work on this site. She had a tendency to get angry at me when I gave her my opinions about her work. One day I told her to stop showing me her work if she didn't want my honest opinion about it.
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Sorry it took so long to reply, I wanted to be able to sit down and not write out some hurried reply.

I get what you're saying and I agree to some degree - stuff like proofreading and spellcheck is a pretty low bar.  However, I don't begrudge anyone for sharing what they've created even if it's not polished or something they'll even improve on.  The effort on my part is so low to look at something and give approval for the fact they did it.  In-depth critique isn't worth it in these instances, though, and that's why I try to talk to the person first to find out if it's even something they care enough to revise.  If not, I see nothing wrong with that, and it's no trouble for me to acknowledge that they've created something and move on.

It's like with my painting - I find it relaxing and every now and then I enjoy sitting down and working on it for a couple hours.  I don't really care much about it and if someone offered me critique, I probably would listen politely and then disregard what they said.  Unless it came from a couple close friends, that is.  But everyone else... not so much.  So why do I bother to paint?  Well, because it's fun, it's relaxing, and other people value it.  So yeah, essentially I am doing it for attention.  It'll never make me a great painter, but that's not my goal.  My goal is to enjoy myself and share that enjoyment with others.

That's what I view unpolished works as.  Someone is enjoying the act of creating something and wants to share that.

I think my viewpoint is influenced a large part by being in the SCA.  Since so much of our stuff can't be bought, we wind up dabbling in a lot of different hobbies.  I hate sewing, but it's a skill I've had to learn simply so I'll look nice at events, and I'd be pretty pissed off if anyone said anything critical about my dresses.  Instead, my friends compliment it, even if the seams are a bit crooked or the veil has some loose threads, because they know I've spent work on it and without that encouragement I'd just remain the Irish hobo in a bog dress I started out as.

Basically, a compliment costs me nothing, and could mean a lot to the person receiving it.
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:iconangiee45:
angiee45 Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I get what you are saying (typing), but I still think that if you put something on display you are opening yourself up to criticism and it bothers me that people take offense to that. I like to paint sometimes too. I think it is in the nature of creative people to continue to be creative in multiple forms. I paint, but nothing as good as some of the work I have seen here so I don't post it. It doesn't measure up. Just for fun I dabbled in Muro and posted that work, but I don't make a habit of it.

I think we could all enjoy art together if people were not so sensitive about their work. I messed up once on a critique and angered someone because I had reached a tipping point myself. I had read a lot of bad fanfiction and then I read one that I thought was going to be good and I was disappointed. I told the author what I thought and they got upset. I later tried to fix my mistake. The argument ended kindly and we haven't talked since. I'm better at critique and comments now. I stand by everything I said, but not the way it was said.

Generally I think that people need to know how other people see their work and not be afraid of it. That is the biggest problem I see. Some people just cannot stand criticism. It's like they believe their work is perfect or they take any kind of comment beyond "I love it" as an insult. These are the people that need to be critiqued just for the experience and they are the ones who would block you for it.

I tend not to offer critique of any kind beyond how I feel about a piece unless something really moves me. I read a story that I liked, but one part bothered me. I talked to the author about it. Things went fine. I think there is a compliment in that. I only seriously comment on work I am in some way invested in.

Here is an easy solution to the problem. If you don't want people critiquing your work, disable the comments.
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:iconl-inque:
L-Inque Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
The best advice on the art of giving and receiving critique.  This should be read by Everyone, writers and non-writers alike.  
I usually don't critique but if I ever feel the itch, I will keep your article in the forefront of my mind.  
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you for the kind words.  I can't promise this will work 100% of the time, but the instances where I've used it, it's really seemed to work out.
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:iconsorrowscoldfrost:
Sorrowscoldfrost Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014
This makes a lot of good points. Usually, I won't critique someone if I don't like what they did, because I'm afraid I'll accidentally say something rude and hurt their feelings. I try not to, but since I'm terrible at pointing out what I don't like (I feel more comfortable complimenting people) I don't always come out as very tactful.
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Critiquing something that isn't that good or something you don't like is hard, and I agree that avoiding doing that is a good idea.  I sometimes don't get the option of not commenting and in that case, the 'be enthusiastic' approach is my fallback.  If I can get excited about the fact that they're excited to be doing this, I can always find something to praise and then something to critique.
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:iconsorrowscoldfrost:
Sorrowscoldfrost Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014
That sounds like a good idea. I'll have to try that, if I ever have to critique something I don't like.
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:iconpercypo:
PercyPo Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Student Filmographer
Tell people like it is, I always say.

I never sugarcoat anything.

And I want people to tell me like it is as well. :)
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
So there's a difference between tact and sugarcoating, and telling people like it is and being respectful of others.  Knowing that difference is an extremely useful skill, especially once you join the workforce.  
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:iconpercypo:
PercyPo Featured By Owner Jun 10, 2014  Student Filmographer
I work. I understand what is appropriate to bring to table for discussion. :)

Sometimes saying nothing is the best criticism as well.
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:iconforsakenterra:
ForsakenTerra Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014
*applause*

I was running through my personal checklist of things-to-know-about-a-good-critique while reading this and I think you hit every single one. Investment/engagement is absolutely the most important part for me -- if I'm not interested enough in a story to really analyze why I like it/what I don't like, then I have no business telling someone how they ought to change it. And it is SO important for the critique to be a dialogue -- for the writer to feel able to respond to the critiquer's comments on the piece, to clarify and ask questions -- and for the critiquer to really try to understand where the writer was coming from, to offer more applicable suggestions. But there's definitely a delicate balance between engaging with the critiquer, cutting off an asshole, and keeping your mouth shut to listen (the instinct to immediately engage in defensive explanations because NO YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND IT'S...well maybe it's not on the PAGE but it's in my HEAD...took me quite a while to get past).

(I might have flinched just a little bit at the title in a reactive OMGICRITIQUEWHATIFIDIDITWRONG, especially since I tend to be MUCH more blunt online, so I'm glad my perspective matches up, at least in theory. :P)

One thing that is, I think, pretty basic to good critique (maybe so basic it doesn't warrant mention here): Just pointing out what you like, dislike, feel vaguely uncomfortable about, etc. is NOT enough, because it doesn't help the writer pinpoint how to fix it. At the very least it's necessary to elaborate on WHY something is an issue, and, if you've got ideas, suggest an alternative (sometimes, and delicately...I DON'T LIKE THIS YOU SHOULD DO THIS OTHER THING EXACTLY LIKE THIS edges into the realm of assuming unwarranted authority over the author). That helps the writer to understand the critiquer's perspective, and maybe to figure out a solution that builds the structure/development of the story instead of shuffling around elements at random.

Critiquing is an art for everyone involved. It takes practice to be effective.

/done gushing about one of my favorite subjects. Although I'm keeping tabs on this piece as a Practical Guide to point people to.
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Yessss, that instinct to defend your work is so hard to get past!  I think that's where the enthusiasm on the part of the other person helps.  Visible excitement about what you're doing isn't nearly as threatening.

I think it depends on the person when it comes to pointing out what you like/don't like.  I personally prefer that, as it allows me to understand how people are reading it and I can adjust from there without suggestions.  I like feedback from the reader's perspective, which is why I'm totally cool with having non-writers critique my work.  It's a matter of personal preference though, and not everything will help everyone the same way.  Hence why it's best to talk beforehand.
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:iconforsakenterra:
ForsakenTerra Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2014
I think maybe I phrased that badly -- I meant more that a bald statement like "I don't like Character X, change her" is much less useful than "I can't stand Character X, good job on creating a villain I hate" or "Character X doesn't come across as a fully developed character, because all she does is..." or even "I see what you're doing with Character X, but the fact that I don't like her makes it difficult for me to engage with the story". I need context, I guess, when I'm getting crit -- but like you said, to each their own.
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Nah, I was kind of hurrying through comments to get caught up that day.  I had a good amount to go through and I kind of skimped I think on answering.  Anyway, I get where you're coming from.  I think it is personal preference, and also the skillset of the person doing the critiuquing.  If they're not familiar with writing, then their advice might not be helpful, but their reaction is helpful.  That's sort of what we do in the local writers workshop.  We mostly give our reactions and why we think we felt that way, rather than advice.  Just different flavors of the process.
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:iconforsakenterra:
ForsakenTerra Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2014
I can definitely see your point! Yeah, like you said, probably just a matter of personal preference.
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:iconinkblush:
inkblush Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I enjoyed reading this, especially because you represented both the person receiving the critique and the person critiquing.
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
The relationship goes both ways.  I've also been on both sides of the fence, so I have ideas for both people on how to make the process work.
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:iconakai-yari:
akai-yari Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I often critiqued (without realizing it sometimes, as I thought I just wrote a detailed comment/review) on fictions, fanfictions and poems. I did not have the ego problem though, at least up until now, because I'm a hobbyist who just enjoys the read and likes to point out what they liked, disliked and thought could get better.

I totally agree with what you said here, that some critics are just people being jerks, but on the internet, being a jerk is sometimes considered fashionable... I just hope that what you wrote will make people think twice about how they give critics and how they receive them. But seing as it was a long text, I'm not sure those who really needed to read it will take the time to, sadly.
When I think some people even say give me critics but don't give me a bad one (in don't point out what's wrong), I think they're just have a thirst for compliments ... When faced with those, I prefer not to say anything at all, far too sensible people are dangerous and explosive : (

One thing about the being excited part, that we should take caution with is that you're far too enthusiastic sometimes, when you really like what you read, thus you tend to do the long list of what is wrong and what should be changed. So I think one of the most important quality a critic should have is probably having a cool head and taking the time to critic their own critic before sharing it ...
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
The people who are just out for compliments are definitely best left alone.  I tend to just leave compliments on strangers because I don't like unsolicited critiques, and I rarely get someone that's hunting for praise agree to my method of critique.  Otherwise, critiquing them is just asking for a trainwreck.

Yes, I agree about the excited part.  That's why I do the contract... it narrows things down to one or two things and keeps me on track.
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:iconakrasiel:
akrasiel Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014   General Artist
I support everything in this post. :thumbsup:
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:iconsteve-c2:
Steve-C2 Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014
PS - not seeing the a-hole flag. :)
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I try to be more tactful than this and I try not to swear.  So if I'm being blunt and sweary, that's the flag.
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:iconsteve-c2:
Steve-C2 Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014
I like to comment on things that I add to my favorites, because I believe the author should be aware why someone does so, beyond "they like it."

So I hope you don't mind the comment that I put here, since this is going into my favorites.

You've given me, at least, some things to think on and process.  I am someone who uses the "compliment sandwich."  I don't critique often, since I'm not an expert/teacher/what have you.  I'm just me, with the experience that I have.  (Ego - check).  When I do, I try to, using the "compliment sandwich," be as honest and respectful (or gentle) as I can.

I like the idea you present, that critique should be more of a "give and take" than a "give while the other party listens."  I really like the metaphor that you used about swordfighting.

I do think that there are some things that, regardless of intent, may be one-sided (grammar and sentence structure situations) vs. those which can be directed more to conversational give and take.  In your view, how would this be handled?

But with that said, how can I disagree with the notion of being nice and taking into account the feelings of the other person?  First and foremost, it's another human being on the other side of that.  Second, they invested time and effort into the work they share.

All that said, I agree with your points.

Cheers.  :)
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Grammar and sentence structure is one of the few absolutes in writing and really, the writer just has to suck it up when it comes to those.  After I put Mortal Gods out there I got some reviews and one of them talked about a grammatical error I had consistently made throughout the story.  I was like, 'son of a...', went back and changed every instance of that mistake, and then uploaded a revised edition.  I mean, you really can't do anything about those except fix it and not make the mistake next time.  If you're the person telling someone about a grammatical error, I'd say just be casual about it, like it's not a big deal and doesn't detract from the story.
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:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I usually direct people (here on dA) to my more thorough critiques to give them an idea of my method and make sure that's something they're comfortable with. :)
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
That's a good method.  Gives them an idea of what they're getting into, hah.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Dialogue dialogue dialogue :nod: I do one-liners. If someone wants more, they can ask. If not, neither of us will have wasted their time.

I got fed up and changed my minor to business - this was beautiful.
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:iconfainting-goat:
fainting-goat Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I'm not sure what it says that I found finance more interesting than creative writing.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Awesome things?
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