Guidelines for Critique
What is a Critique?
A critique is an analysis of a critique submission, e.g., artwork or creative writing. The purpose of a critique is to provide the submission's creator with insight regarding the submission’s merits and faults, and to offer advice regarding how the submission might be improved.
Offering a Critique
When offering a critique, remember above all that Critiques should be:
- sensitive and tactful, but also honest; if uncertain which side to err upon, please choose sensitivity and tact
- succinct, meaning that feedback should take no more than 1-2 minutes to speak before allowing another participant a chance to respond or give feedback
- on topic, meaning that feedback should not tangent or require convoluted explanations
- offered with awareness of the submission's style, lineage, and intention; when uncertain of what those may be, use the submission as an opportunity to become educated about the diversity of style, lineages, and intentions in existence
- offered without a soapbox; a critique is neither a lecture nor a debate
- offered as an opinion, not as a fact; one represents oneself, not a universal perspective
The following list contains acceptable critiques to offer at The People’s Colloquium. This list is not exhaustive, nor are all the items acceptable critiques for all submissions.
- Experience and Response—Was the submission enjoyable? Unenjoyable? Was there any portion that you wanted to linger upon or ignore? Was it easy or difficult? Did you like it or dislike it? Did you respond emotionally? Intellectually?
- Craft and Style—Was the creator’s technique successful? In what ways? What style was employed? Was its execution successful or not? How does the chosen style inform the meaning and interpretation of the submission?
- Tradition and Experimentation—Does the submission fit within a tradition? What is that tradition? Does it maintain the tradition, attempt to progress it, or attempt to transgress it? How successful is the submission in maintaining its tradition? At progressing it? At transgressing it? Is the submission experimental? How radical is it in its experimentation?
- Content, Theme and Symbolism—Do you find the submission's subject matter compelling? Not compelling? What is its message? Is it clear? Is it convincing? Does it contribute meaningfully to conversations in its intended subject matter(s)? What symbols are present? How are they familiar? Unfamiliar? How do they follow conventions? How do they break conventions? What do the symbols represent? What are their goals? Do they accomplish their goals?
- Commercial Considerations—Can you envision an audience for the submission? If yes, who might that audience be? If not, how might the submission find its audience? How might it be best marketed? How might it be best brought to the public?
- Sociocultural and Psychoanalytical—How might people from differing cultures respond to the submission? Is there unintended bias present? What sort of sociocultural messages does the submission convey? Would it have a positive impact upon the world? Does the submission seem psychologically revealing of its creator? Does the submission serve a personal psychological goal of the creator’s? Is this apparent to the audience? Should it be?
Receiving a Critique
When receiving a critique:
- Strive for emotional neutrality; being reactive toward others, their words, or the situation will prevent a creator from actively listening and truly understanding another's perspective
- Do not to take the critique personally; remember, the submission is under critique—including its merits and demerits; the creator is not under critique; this point is especially important if the critique submission comes from a personal place, such as the case of a memoir or a long-standing project
- Do not rationalize, defend, or lecture, especially not at length
- Please be respectful toward all opinions offered, especially those you don't agree with
In order to receive the most from a critique, a submitting creator should be proactive, active, and reflective.
- Proactive—The creator should request specific feedback. For example: “Are the colors in my painting visually harmonious?” “Does this short story scene elicit an emotional reaction?” “Is my theme satisfying?” A creator has two chances to request proactive feedback:
Keep in mind, proactive requests should designate no more than 50% of a critique discussion. What a creator knows he/she needs help with is important, but equally important is what the critique group reveals that the creator was unaware of.
- When posting an introductory blurb on The People’s Colloquium’s member’s forum
- As an announcement at the beginning of the critique group
- Active—During the critique discussion, the submitting creator should ask questions, seek clarifications, restate needs and desires as they develop, and politely direct the critique discussion as needed. A good general rule is that the submitting creator should speak no more than 10% of the time. Of course, the creator is also welcome to remain entirely silent during the critique, if that’s their preference.
- Reflective—Feedback provided during a critique discussion will likely be diverse. This is desirable, for a good critique offers multiple viewpoints, insights, and potential solutions. How should the submitting creator decide what to keep, and what to leave? The answer is: through reflection. For a day or longer following the critique, the submitting creator should think methodically through the feedback received, bearing in mind that first impressions can be misleading, and kind advice may not end up being the best advice. Ultimately, processing feedback takes time, and shouldn't be rushed.