How to Recognize Problems in Your Creative Work Before Seeking Critiques.

by | Creating | 4 comments

“If you don’t understand a problem, then explain it to an audience and listen to yourself.” —Tom Hirshfield

Image courtesy of dan at

Image courtesy of dan at

Your creative work isn’t where you want it to be. You’ve done your checklists, and it’s still lacking. You want to improve your baby so your teacher, critique partner, or coach doesn’t end up doing your work.

So, before you ask for someone else’s feedback, try this simple method and add zest to your creative work every time.

Recognize You in Your Audience

Image courtesy of photostock at

Image courtesy of photostock at

Aren’t you a reader, a viewer of art, a listener in an audience? You qualify as the one who knows what’s missing in your creation. And who cares more about your work than you do?

Step Away and Come Back as Someone Else

In order to switch roles, let your work sit so time lessens your memory and emotions as its creator. Then when you come back to the work, come back as a person in your audience.

Image courtesy of nuchylee at

Image courtesy of nuchylee at

If you’re a novelist like I am, return as a reader. You’re no longer the writer. You’re a reader who paid $12.95 for this book. Surely, you wouldn’t sit in the writer’s chair. Instead, sit where you usually read books. And most likely, you read from an e-reader or the printed page, not from writing software. So ahead of time, you might want to transfer the problem section to your e-reader or print it.

Do whatever you need to do to become a member of your audience. 

Give a Piece of Your Mind

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

If you’re a reader, re-read the novel, chapter, scene, paragraph, or sentence and ask: When do I first sense something is bitter or bland?

Here are some possibilities:

  • I yawned. If I were the writer, I’d create some action right here that brought out my emotions. Something to keep me awake.
                • I’m disgusted. I dislike the heroine. If I were the writer, I’d either show her nice side or   get another heroine.

Finish reading the selection and tell that author what you’d do to fix each problem area. Then take her for tea and chocolate scones.

If you’re an artist, it might go like this:

  • My eyes keep going to the clump of dirt on the path. If I were the artist, I wouldn’t let that clump distract from the couple kissing in the garden. I’d tone the clump down.
  • It’s the woman. Her cheek is one-dimensional. If I were the artist, I’d add shading to transform her from a paper doll into vibrant woman.
Image courtesy of satit_srihin at

Image courtesy of satit_srihin at

I think we forget to put ourselves in our audience. Readers, viewers, and listeners always see what they don’t like and usually have an opinion of how to fix it. We can too.

How have you corrected problem areas in your work before getting others’ feedback?

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  1. Lisa J Lickel

    Nice points, Zoe! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jane Foard Thompson

    Giving it time has worked well for me. I come back later and find all kinds of things. Some of it is seeing what I couldn’t at first because I knew what I was trying to say, so didn’t recognize the places where I didn’t really say it. Also, with time I’ve learned something more, about writing and about living, so I bring more to the table.

    If I’m working under a deadline, then printing it out and taking it to a different location helps to change hats and get a fresh view.

    Thanks for the great post. Your practical approach always helps me, even if sometimes just to put in practice what I know, and other times it’s, “Ah, that’s what I needed.”

  3. Zoe M. McCarthy

    I like what you said about you really didn’t say what you were thinking. That’s me, too. I also often find something to add when I go back after the work has sat.

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