Sunday, March 18, 2007

Judging ourselves

St Paul tells us that if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged. How true! The human ego is amazingly selfish and resilient.

The funny thing is that Christians should be as free from their egos as they are from sin and the devil but they are often as bad as the rest of the world. They (we) often disguise our stubborn refusal to be open-minded as "standing up for what's right" or some other excuse.

I'm going on about this because I'm an avid lover of American Idol and any reality show in which expertise (such as talent judges and judges of the law) encounter someone who is a novice or someone who simply doesn't know the rules.

The attitude of some folks never cease to amaze me. As I watch the way folks take criticism -- some of it often brutal-- and see the way their hackles come up when a judge tries to help, I think of a few critique groups I've been in.

I like critique groups. Don't get me wrong. I belong to a few and I have a yahoo group that shares writing information and also does crits: multicultigenrewriters.
1. What I've seen are
1) people who lurk and never crit or put stories up for crits.
2) people who generally lurk but who pop up only when they want something critted.
3) people who belong to other crit groups where everything they write is considered perfect
4) people who argue about the writing world's "stupid rules"
5) people who gossip about you behind your back with other groups (and post your crits to those group) when you challenge them.
6) people who aren't willing to learn because they don't realize they're beginners
7) people who think you're being unkind when you're honestly trying to help perfect their work.
8) people who are mimicking other great works (LOTR knock-offs) and don't have an original bone in their bodies but who think they are "following the rules of the genre"
9) people who are writing thinly-disguised memoirs and who are so personally involved in their stories that when you tell them a character is just too unrealistically evil (or good) you end up with a major meltdown.
10) good kind talented people
11) people who get spiteful when you crit them by giving you a very dismissive critique...just to show how good they really are...and how bad you are.
12) people who are better writers than I am.
The mix is tough and unpredictable -- writers are people-- and at a point in most people's life they simply don't want to grow or want to be told what to do. But there are some good folks out there...and truly I wouldn't have been published if it weren't for the good crittters.

Now, forgetting the way other people react for a minute -- because I can't help how other people behave-- I'lll only talk about the way yours truly -- MOI-- behaves whenever I get a critique on a work-in-progress.

I get into an inward struggle.

If the critique comes from an authority figure whom I respect I'll accept it pretty well. Hey, I have my good points...and listening to authority is one of them. Why remake the wheel? If we all tried to live an experiential life and only believed what we ourselves understood or had experienced we'd all start out as cavemen and forget the works of our forebears. So I'm cool with this kind of critique.

If, however, the critique comes from someone who is not particularly swift, I'll simply say thank you and ignore the critique...telling myself the person is not as published as I am so why the heck should I listen to her?

But even the most uneducated critter often has good points and there is where the inner battle begins. OOOOOOh, my friends! How difficult it is to say "thank you" to someone one does not respect.

And if the critique comes from someone who has a chip against me...wow, it really gets bad then. Because whether the critter is right or wrong, the very idea of giving in to him/her is like eating crow. And crow tastes like crap. I've eaten it before.

Ah well, we have to learn. The Bible warns us against not being able to take criticism. A noble heart is a teachable heart that thanks even its worst teachers. YEah, I just made that up.
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