My new guilty pleasure is ABC's Dancing with the Stars. I love this show! That's Joey McIntyre from NKOTB and his partner Ashley del Grosso, a professional ballroom dancer. What I love about this show, besides the dancing, is how brave these celebrities are. They're really putting themselves on the line. The show is live every week, not pre-recorded, and they only had a week to learn either the tango or the jive. It took me 6 weeks to learn just the basics of the lindy, so kudos to these dancers. Who knew that Rachel Hunter and John O'Hurley could really dance or that you could do the tango to a Britney Spears song?
What makes it even more impressive, besides the fact that the show is live, is the fact that the judges are professional ballroom dance judges. It's hard enough to take on the challenge of something unfamiliar but to do in front of the world and professionals, that takes guts.
It made me wonder about criticism. Some of the judges were incredibly harsh on the dancers, considering that they're amateurs. Even though Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsey can be entertaining, we have the safety of not being the ones up in the host seat. Simon professes that he is doing the singers a favor by being so blunt but is he really?
I've had the experience of having some really good critiques of my work (Thanks Bev, KMJ, MG, RY, SRN) and I"ve had the opposite experience of having critiques that were so harsh, it's a wonder I'm still writing. My first experience with the Simon Cowell school of critiquing came courtesy of RT's manuscript evaluation service. For $85, I could have my synopsis and first 3 chapters critiqued by a professional writer.
Cool! I had just had several 'dear author' rejections from agents, and I wanted to find out aht I might be doing wrong. I sent off my check and my work and eagerly awaited my critique. Well, what awaited me in the return envelope was nothing short of character assasination. The writer was a fairly well known historical romance writer. She ripped my work to shreds, and called me morally irresponsible for having one of my characters smoke.
How I kept my head out of the oven I'll never know. Did I learn anything from her critique? Not really, apart from some grammatical errors. The second, almost as devastating occured in my first workshop with the Queen Bee. I read my first 7 pages of one of my manuscripts. The verdict? She hated it. That's what she actually said "I hate it". Now she had some really good points to make , but getting past the "I hate it" part was difficult to say the least. Granted, this was just one person's opinion, and you have to develop a thick skin in this business, but I do believe tha tthere is a way to critique without destroying someone's soul.
Since then, I've been very conscious of how I personally critique someone. I always say something positive first, before I go on to talk about what I think could be improved, or what I thought was missing. I try to treat the writer with the same consideration that I would want to be treated.
What do peole think? Is it better to be brutally honest or to take the Paula Abdul approach to giving criticism?