I’ve been involved in many critique groups and have found some are productive and help the writer grow while the purpose of other groups is just to tear a writer down.
You know what I’m talking about, maybe you’ve even been there yourself. You read your piece and hold your breath hoping you don’t get chewed up.
While helping a person become a better writer should be the ultimate goal of very individual in a group, it isn’t always the case. I once belonged to a group where one of the participants felt that it was her obligation to take notes while the person was reading their piece and then immediately run down a list of things that were awful about it. Not once did she give a word of praise. Needless to say, people entered this class terrified and left defeated.
I believe it is the Coordinator’s obligation to ensure no one, no matter how much work their work needs, does not get thorn apart. It is our goal to make sure we bring out the best in all our writers.
On that note let’s discuss the difference between Critique and Criticism.
Critique is offering helpful suggestions on a piece. For instance, how the piece could be improved by adding some facts, or using more descriptive wording. A proper critique also points out the strong points of a piece.
Criticism is tearing down the piece, finding fault with everything. For instance, saying the piece is amateurish, that a word is misspelled (and honestly, folks this one gets me. While we should strive for perfect spelling, how many times have you seen words misspelled in the newspaper and books alike?) Let’s be real here – at a writers group or critique group no-one comes for grammar at the onset. These things come later when the writer’s confidence level and writing techniques have improved.
As a writing instructor, I have had the privilege of watching new students come into the class worried about how they will be graded and judged by their work, only to have them leave better, more confident and prolific writers who have had their potential stretched to where they can dream of a bright writing future.
Tips for finding the right writers/critique group:
Your writing abilities must improve
Your imagination is growing with each class
You find yourself expanding your writing techniques into other areas of interest.
You are with a group of people that are striving for the same things.
After all, isn’t that what we all want for our careers?