Criticism, Criticize, Critique

Mmmm, a turkey and Miracle Whip sandwich.  Tasty and a good learning tool.

Let’s take a look at these three words here.

Criticism: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.

Criticize: indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way.

Critique: a detailed analysis and assessment of something, esp. a literary,philosophical, or political theory.

It’s really too bad that these three words have a negative connotation attached to them.  Did you ever grow up hearing, “Don’t criticize me?” or something to that effect?  And wasn’t it used in a negative way and/or situation?  That’s too bad because for us *artists, these words make or break us.

*Of course I am not singling out non-artists, include yourself if you feel you should be included.

This is something we all have to face.  I know of photography students who had to take one hundred pictures a week, and then have then be critiqued by the class.  I wasn’t a photography student, and this thought scared me.  Having someone tell me my point of view and my view on beauty is not good?  Please, leave me out of it.  We never got critiqued on many of our audio projects, until last quarter (thank the Lord that I was with an awesome partner, who everyone left alone because he was so good).

So, how are we to get past our fear of the “C” word?  Well, first, we have to understand the difference between criticism and rudeness.  Rudeness is, “This is just crap.  Everything about this sucks.  I can’t see one good thing in this at all.”  Um, if I may…  I’m pretty sure there is something good in whatever it is.  In writing, the writer might be awesome at punctuation.  No?  What about grammar?  No?  Spelling?  Word choice?  Sentence structure?  Forming paragraphs?  Taking a risk knowing they’re not great at writing?  Aha!  See, I knew we could find something.

Criticism, on the other hand, should follow this very basic, easy to use, honest but nice, method: the sandwich method.

The Sandwich Method?

If there is one thing I learned in my two years of college, it’s this.  The sandwich method.  Ready?

Bread, ingredients, bread.  Let us begin:

Bread: Here we have a compliment, the something good.  

For example: “Wow, well, I really like the fact that you can spell.  That helps me figure out what’s going on in the story.”

Ingredients: Here is where we address the problem(s) we have with whatever it is.

For example: “Although, I suggest you should try to figure out how to use punctuation.  To me, that seems to be something that you might be struggling with.”

And again, bread: Here, you can either end with a compliment…

“But like I said, you did an awesome job with the spelling!”

…Or, suggest a way for them to fix said problem.

“Maybe you could experiment with punctuation, have someone help you, or…read a book.”

See?  Nice, but honest.  Sometimes, people forget to put these two things together and start right in on *lambasting some poor, already insecure little person.

*Vocabulary word of the day.

When you start to critique someone else’s work, please remember how you feel when you are critiqued (unless you like it.  In that case, please understand that most people don’t).

There is one more thing I’d like to talk about.  How do you get over the fear of being critiqued?

Time.

Personally, I usually don’t let people read anything I write because I don’t want them to tell me I suck.  Mainly because I feel like this is the only thing I have going for me.  So, if someone tells me I’m bad at the one thing I love, then I might give up on life (please don’t take me seriously on that, because I would never give up on life).  And even if I do let someone read something, there are two reason for that:

  1. I have made sure this is perfect.  And I mean perfect.  To the best of my ability, and there is absolutely, no way I am changing anything.  Seriously, how is that going to help me?
  2. I don’t care about that person, or their opinions.  Of course, if you love something, you shouldn’t care anyway.  But if you’re serious about getting something out there for people to see, you should care about getting it right.

Recently, I did show someone an unedited first chapter of my recent story I’ve been working on.  Unedited as in, written in a notebook, typed into Pages (Mac version of Windows, if you didn’t know), and copied over into Documents and shared with this person.  So unlike me.  Why did I do this?  I was ready.  I love this story, and quite honestly, I respect this person’s opinion.  They have been nice to me ever since we met, and I wanted to see what kind of critic they were.  And you know what?  Without going to school for two years, they used the sandwich method.  I wanted to hug them.  They really helped me get over my fear of criticism, because they showed me what to look for.

Please, people, don’t be mean.  Critique well.  Be nice.  I know some people need to be slapped in the face (with words) sometimes, but do your best to be courteous when doing so.

What I’m trying to say is, remember that these words have a negative effect on people.  Balance that out with the positive effect of the sandwich method.

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