The Gift of Critique

This has been a whirl wind month hasn’t it? Through all of the turmoil, I am extremely grateful to be able to sit still and write. An invaluable way for me to express myself yes, but to calm and focus from the events at hand is even more important. I am deeply saddened and upset by much of what is taking place.

The unrest in the world around me has clearly defined a path to the sanctuary of my writing space and the solitude of my own thoughts. I do not owe anyone an explanation or reason I choose to write like this or that. I do not have to apologize when I write a vulgar poem or shift gears and create a child’s lullaby. In the writers’ life, you are completely free to write whatever you wish without justification. You have the freedom to choose.

So instead of filling this page with my views, positive or negative on the climate in this country. I choose to share something I came across that I found helpful, perhaps you will find it of value too. The purpose was to ground myself. Use my solitude and delve a little deeper into the art of writing.

I’ve taken workshops, gone to seminars, immersed myself in the technical courses of writing and explored the nature of poetry. It was a gift to find an editor who pushed me to experiment with ideas and pulled me along into understanding the formatting of a good story -how to make it work and work well. How to take my ideas to the next level. So now, my hope is that when I write something, it is richer, fuller, crafted tighter. Learning how others have approached this craft is of great interest to me. So when I heard author Veronica Roth speak about her journey writing and how she came to embrace being critiqued, I took noticed and listened carefully.

I found her interview extremely insightful. It was not the discussion of the success of her books which have topped 35 million in sales. The first being Divergent, followed by Insurgent and then Allegent, all which have been made into movies. She spoke about taking one creative writing class in college. There she learned how to accept critiques.  Notice I did not say criticism, and if you are in a writing circle that criticizes your work – get out, that’s just toxic. But if you are in a writing group that critiques – listen and really hear what is being said about your work.

She said at first it was truly an overwhelming experience. You are to sit in silence while everyone in the room takes turns critiquing (defined as: analysis, evaluation, assess, appraise, appreciate/or not, review, study, comment) your work. Anyone who has gone through this knows how difficult it is and our first reaction is to explain why we did this, or said that. But that’s missing the point. She said she learned how important is was to sit silently and listen to how your work was read. Not explain. Simply understand if they don’t get it, you didn’t say it right. The solution is within you – but the critique is imperative to accept and use for help.

So if you are able to receive the gift of critique – take it seriously and with grace. Listen, hear and take notes.

Lastly, I also admired her honesty when she spoke about the publishing world. When asked what she thought the reason her book was selected, without hesitation she said, “Timing and luck.” For some reason, this helped me relax as I begin the next part of my journey. Learning to write a query letter, and not taking rejection to heart. I can’t find an agent if I do not put myself out there – putting myself out there is a little scary, but, with a little luck that is exactly what I will do. I can only hope the timing is write.

Breathe Deep, Think Peace


About Patricia Young

Patricia Young spent most of her life in the Northeast. Before the casinos arrived and many of the safety rails installed, she would hike Bushkill Falls and enjoy time in a little cabin by Meadow Lake near the Delaware Water Gap. The school year was spent in New Jersey, but many summers were spent in Mississippi where she wandered in the woods, rode horses, and read piles of comic books with cousins. After graduating from college with a degree in education, she taught fifth grade in Bayside, Queens. When rent climbed to high for her salary she working for the defense industry in Yonkers before starting a small business called, The Giving Tree Day Care. For fifteen years she was "held hostage by two-year-olds!" Writing every day in a notebook for each child to keep communication open to each family. Fast forward to the spring of 2013 diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel syndrome (she does NOT recommend having both hands done at the same time! Often wondering "What was I thinking?!") Physical therapy and time slowly began the healing process and gardening strengthened her hands. After an unexpected, but a deeply personal journey to Montana in the fall of 2013 she decided it was time to reinvent herself and embrace her fondness for writing. With renewed confidence, and a plan to do the work necessary to become a writer, she began writing every day (with the help of - thank you Kellianne and Buster!), submitting to a variety of magazines and contests to practice the craft. Attending writing retreats, workshops, lectures, taking classes, reading and immersing herself in the process. She began to work with writers and authors in the tri-state area. Currently living in Westchester New York Patty lives with her husband of 32 years, two dogs, two fish, and one cat in a little Cape Cod. The laughter, love, and support are plentiful. Patty has completed her first novel presently called "Northeast of 80". Working with her genre editor, she hopes and dreams and keeps fingers crossed to find an agent in the fall of 2019. You are invited to join her on this journey of a writer. To experience her trials, successes and stumbles along the way. Please share your own stories and maybe we can untangle some of the complexities of this writers life together. Breathe Deep, Think Peace
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