How To Get An Honest Critique Of Your Work
Whether you are painting, writing poetry or prose, making music, sculpting or whatever… you’ve finished your latest piece so you’re moving to that tricky phase of getting comments and opinions from your friends. And, most of the times, you know you are just wasting time. They’re your friends, so they are going to like it, and even if they don’t they will say they do. What’s the use of it? But you need some critique, so you’ll ask them anyway. How to make them being honest and useful instead of flattering?
It’s all about what you ask and how you state the question. If you ask a friend how do they like it, then they probably won’t give you anything useful. Unless by useful you mean flattering and telling you’re the best. But what’s that useful for? It won’t make you any better to hear that your friends like you. You want to hear what is bad and wrong about what you just did, right? Then you can go back and maybe correct it. Or you can learn for the next time. That’s the road to becoming really good, if not the best.
So ask it that way. Don’t ask how do they like it or what do they think. Don’t ask them to be honest with you, they’ll just interpret that as a call to lie more persuasively. Ask them what they don’t like, what is bad and wrong. Ask them to be harsh and brutal! And don’t just say it. Mean it, honestly. Be sure that your friend takes the message. Don’t go around all happy about the work you have done.
Trick that usually works for me is showing the piece and telling that something’s wrong with it I just can’t point the finger to the problem. And ask for help.
Do that when you are in the mood to destroy the piece yourself. Don’t ask for the opinions right after you have finished the piece. You’re probably tired and too attached to it. Get some sleep. Go do something else. Give your brain some chance of clearing up. You’ll have a better look on your work and will be more acceptable to the critique. There is no point of hearing what’s bad about your work while you’re still swimming in the waters of inspiration.
Don’t accept any flattering and positive critique before you get the negative one. Just shook your head, cut their sentence in half and move them back to finding your weak spots. Encourage them when they start bringing up what they think is bad. Once they see you are OK with their opinion and not just asking for a bit of friendly praise, they’ll start feeling free to communicate it to you.
Take a piece of paper and write it all down. Right there, while you’re talking with a friend. Don’t leave it for later. Mind is very capable of forgetting the things we don’t like.
If you disagree with what they say, keep it to yourself, don’t argue. Make a note, rethink it later. Maybe they are right, maybe not. But don’t ruin the moment. Even if they are wrong about something, it’s a spot worth thinking about. Have in mind that somebody else might have the same feeling about that spot. If something’s good only for you, then it’s not good. Maybe it needs a bit more working on, after all.
After all the brutal and painful job is done, you’re free to ask about the good sides of the piece. That is not consolation time, you need that part of the critique as much as you needed the bad part. You should know what you have done good. Some things you did because you are good in what you do, but some you have done out of pure luck or maybe because you are good at it but you’re not aware of that particular strong spot of yours. Well, you should be aware of it if you want to keep doing it.
Good thing is that once you have established a good relationship with your peers, it’s much easier to get a quality critique. And you’ll be better in accepting it. So, get some courage and ask for it.