The benefits of receiving them are obvious. The benefits of giving them, however, are varied and not always immediately evident.
I gave my first critique less than two years ago. A dozen different insecurities flooded my mind as I did so.
- Who am I to recommend that this be changed?
- What if my suggestion ends up being the worst suggestion in the history of critiquing?
- How can I make sure my feedback will be received in the spirit intended?
- Did I word this comment so that its meaning won't be misinterpreted?
- Am I sure the writer's intent didn't just fly over my head?
- Maybe that section really is perfect and I'm just too dense to recognize it??
And on and on the doubts came and set up residence in my mind. But had I never sent the critique, that residency would have become permanent.
As with anything we do in life, we improve with practice. We grow more confident and strengthen our skills, both in analyzing another's words and in conveying ours.
But I've found that I'm the one who benefits most from the critiques I give. I learn or reinforce grammar lessons. I see the importance of word choice, sentence and story structure. I discover new terms, new techniques, and get a feel for what works and what doesn't. I find myself flagging a writer for something that I still do myself, and promptly make a note to change it in my own manuscript.
Critiquing enables a writer to view his own writing from different perspectives, making possible a more objective assessment of his own skills and tendencies.
Providing a good critique takes a fair bit of time if done well. And when handled properly, the results will encourage as well as enlighten the writer who wrote the words under your microscope.
Almost two-thirds of my time reading over the past year has been for critiques. And I do not regret it one bit. I can only hope those who have received critiques from me have benefited from them as much as I did.
While receiving a critique benefits the receiver, giving a critique benefits everyone. So do everyone a favor. Seek to critique and learn from the experience.
(My apologies if this publishes as new again. I somehow managed to "unpublish" it.)