|James L. Rubart|
Want to be Critiqued? Are you sure?
Back in ’96 I performed around the Seattle area as a semi-pro magician. A fellow prestidigitator and I developed an act we called The Dueling Magicians. The song Dueling Banjos played as we swapped tricks back and forth—each one more grand than the other—all ending in a bullet catch played for laughs. Then we did another twenty minutes of comedy magic.
One of our biggest shows was at the Everett Civic Theatre. The place was packed and the crowd roared with enthusiasm with every joke we lobbed their way and every trick we performed. Afterwards people raved about the show, and kids asked for our autographs.
We felt like stars.
Give Me Some Feedback
The Monday after the show I asked my marketing business partner what he thought and what Jerry and I could do to get even better.
“The show was good for the most part, but your blocking needs work. You stepped in front of each other a couple of times where it distracted. And you had too much downtime when you brought one of the audience members up on stage. You should have music going during that time. And I’d pick up the overall pace a bit and cut the show by probably ten minutes. Always leave the audience wanting more, you know?”
I flopped back in my chair, undoubtedly with a stunned look on my face. His criticism stung. Deep.
What I realized long afterwards is I didn’t want what I’d asked for (a critique). I wanted him to tell me how good Jerry and I were. How the crowd loved us, how funny we were and how some talent scout would soon discover us and take us to the big time.
I was still insecure enough about the show that I needed encouragement and people to believe in us. I wanted my business partner to say something along the lines of, “You were great! I loved it, keep at it! You two can do it!”
You See Where I’m Going With This, Don’t You?
When you ask someone to critique your writing, are you asking them for encouragement or critique? Or a little of both? Do you know? Have you been burned and discouraged in the past when you’ve asked?
I still remember when I started writing my first novel, and how my skin was tissue-paper thin. How easily I could have shut down my laptop forever and given up my dream of being an author with a harsh critique. (I did quit for a time because of a brutal critique in early ’06, but my wife wouldn’t let me give up.)
So when you’re asking someone for a critique—whether you’re just starting or have been writing for years—know what you’re really asking for and tell them.
And if you’re the one critiquing, read between the lines and try to discern what they need to hear.
Now, do you mind picking a card, any card? I think you’ll really like the show. But do you mind keeping what you think to yourself?
James L. Rubart is the best-selling and award-winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, THE CHAIR, and his just released, SOUL’S GATE. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com
Soul's Gate released November 6, 2012.
“Every now and then we get a break from reality. A glimpse into the other world that is more real than the reality we live in 99 percent of our days. The Bible is about a world of demons and angels and great evil and even greater glory.”
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