I attend about four different writers’ groups, or meeting, throughout the month. I, like many other working (or even hobby) writers, find them to be of some use. If not always for the feedback, they are great for the accountability. I mean, there’s only so many times one person can show up to the same meeting and say “I’m writing this short story!” before people start to question why they’ve been working on the same short story for five years. Am I right?
There is a common practice among all these groups that some call the “sandwich method” for critiquing writing.
Basically, you tell someone something you like about their work, followed by something they need to work on, followed still by something you think they are doing right.
I get why this method is popular. It’s workable. It keeps things positive. It also has the added benefit of keeping ill-socialized basement dwellers from just outrightly DESTROYING their fellow writers. And, I appreciate this. I’ve ran into many of writer that just seem like that these meetings are their only contact with other humans–they lack significant tact when dealing with other, thinking, feeling, human beings. But, I would say they are the minority.
What is a greater majority is the writer that needs this method to not feel crushed by their critiquers. And, again, I get it. It’s hard. We are soft little, tender meat bags. Criticism hurts! One poorly placed, tactless comment can destroy the confidence of someone who’s already shaky on self-possession to begin with.
But, this is where I stop to self-reflect. You see, I’m finding where this “sandwich method” is keeping things positive, it is also keeping things distant…removed. I’m finding that this “sandwich method” isn’t quite right for me. I’m always willing to practice it, however, if the people I’m with require, or prefer it.
But, personally, I don’t think I need the whole “nice thing, bad thing, nice thing” format in order to improve. I crav closeness with others, and tend to hate distance. Boundaries I get…but not pointless expanses between others. Not when it is limiting communication.
Which, I guess, is how it feels to me. Something actually feels limiting for me with it. I find myself gradually less interested in hearing nice things or bad things about my writing, and more just interested in hearing true things.
No judgement of value to the critiquers’ opinion–I’m just looking for a genuine statement. At this point I can’t see myself improving without real statements. No bullshit. No nice words because the format requires it. No critical ones either if they weren’t earned. I don’t want any feedback I didn’t earn.
What ever a critiquer gives me, I just want it to be real. I want the realest picture of the reader’s viewpoint as I can get. I want a little shared empathy, some mind melding. I want people who are so enthusiastic about eachother that they don’t got room in their mouths for anything that isn’t 100% honest, and spoken completely for the other person’s benefit!
I’m striving for this. I’m pushing for this as much as others are willing to be vulnerable enough to comply in meetings. But, that’s where I’m finding the rub. Honesty, and genuine enthusiasm in others, is a sort of intimacy. Not everyone is willing, comfortable, or capable of that.
Which, too, I must respect.