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Lesson Plans

Seeking criticism

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 14:05:42 -0700 (PDT)

To: Terry Barrett

Dear Terry,

I find that I want to answer your questions as an artists and then again as
a writer. I have different answers to the questions when I frame them as an
artist or as a writer. I wonder if you are interested in both?

Answering as an Artist:

As an artist, do you ever seek critiques of the art that you make?

I seldom seek critiques, and when people do comment, it is generally
pleasant and it feels very flattering. People will say, "I was moved by
your work...or "I just had to have it because I felt as though you made it
for me."

If not, why not?

While the comments feel really good, and they inspire me to keep on, I
really believe I would keep on anyway. I have no intention of redoing the
piece. They are one-of-a-kind, and I have no interest in knowing how to do
it better or what worked or didn't work. What I like most about creating my
art is the spontaneity and the firery impulsive decisions I make as I work.
I do not want my work to become methodical. I want it always to be fresh
and alive and not worked and reworked.

If so, why? From whom? When?
The highest compliment is people wanting to own your work.

What do you want to know from a critique of your work?

What is helpful to you?

What is not helpful to you?

I am sorry, Terry Barrett, but the way you asked these questions leaves me
out of the flow chart. I answered that I do not seek critique on my art
work. The piece is done. I brought it from an abstract idea to a reality.
Creating it gave me satisfaction.

I do not feel the same answering as a writer.

As a writer, do you ever seek critiques of your writing?
Yes, all the time. I want to know what are the strong parts of the writing.
I want to know where I lost the reader. When I write, I want to tell my
story, and I am writing, not so much for myself, but for others. I want to
know if the reader can see the images I've painted with my words. I know
exactly what I mean in my writing, but I do not know what other people see
when they read my words.

If not, why not?

If so, why? From whom? When?
Oh, my goodness, I want criticism from anyone who will read my work. The
best criticism comes from people whose judgement I trust. Few people will
take the time to really read what I've written. When they give me feedback,
it is like a gift, and I treasure it. It is as if the are saying to me, "I
care about what you are doing, and I want to help you make it better."
Giving me feedback, negative or positive, is the highest compliment they pay
me. It is the way they show that they love me. I want the criticism early
in the piece--like in the fuzzy first draft stages...I want the criticism
after a second draft...after a third...I even want it when I think I'm finished.

What do you want to know from a critique of your work? I want to know that
the reader sighed with satisfaction when s/he finished reading my story. I
want to know if the reader felt even the tiniest thrill of delight or sorrow
or personal connection in my words.

What is helpful to you? The people who are most helpful to me are the ones
who really read what I've written. I don't want them to say, "That was
really good." Those comments do not count. I want them to say something
specific and pointed.

What is not helpful to you? Generalizations are the least helpful. I know
that specific details are also helpful to other writers and artists. When I
looked at Jesse's pencil drawing for example, I said, "I really like the
fact that the umbrella's upside down. It's as though the subject of your
drawing is trying to catch all that life has to give--the rain as well as
the sun." And, you know, a wonderful light began to shine in Jesse's eyes.

I don't think the light was shining necessarily because I got whatever
meaning he'd intended. I think the was pleased that I found meaning in his
work. That's what I am trying to say here. It is important to me in my
writing that those who read it find it meaningful.

So, Terry Barrett, what do you think? Was this answer meaningful?

Jann M Gallagher
Euclid City Schools