Good or bad. Hero or villain. The world is full of opposites and writing fiction is certainly no exception. Often it is that opposition of characters and situations that drives the story. But what about facts rather than fiction?
As much as I love to write, I love to read as well. Like most people, I enjoy the escape into another place and time with people I have yet to meet, or is the case of a series, people I can’t wait to see again. That intimate escape has always been the draw for me. But sometimes, as an author – especially one who is tediously making their way through final edits of a 100k word manuscript – is can be hard to turn off the inner critique a let yourself just read for the pleasure of it. Instead of suspension of disbelief as we open the page, our inner critic emerges, eyes traveling anxiously over the words, not to discover the beauty of the story but, to find the flaws: the typos, grammatical errors or holes on the story line — sometimes even covertly considering how we might have written it differently. Instead of being in the story, we remain on the outside looking in. Kind of like having sex with the grocery list running through your head! And that’s no fun.
While edits are a necessary evil in our craft, it’s important, if not vital, to quiet that inner critic and give it some well-deserved time off. Like us, it needs a vacation now and then. A change of pace. A chance to recharge so it can return with a fresh perspective and renewed objectivity. Objectivity lets us stand back and see what is in right in front of us without judgment.
That brings us back to the most important question: what is the difference between the terms Critic and Critique? From my perspective the simplest answer is Intention. Why are we doing it? What purpose does it serve? Are we trying to be helpful or harmful – and to whom? As writers, we develop a discerning eye for details. When we critique another writer with intention of helping them make their story better or even drawing inspiration for our own work that is a good thing – for both the writer and the critique partner. But when we pick up another writers work as a critic, looking for those inevitable missteps with the intention of pointing out the flaws simply for the sake of doing so, it becomes a form of bullying. Whether you share those negative intentions or not, it does nothing to serve our own creative process. Why bother if it doesn’t make us better?
Writers, take some time away from your edits and deadlines and read a good book for the simple pleasure of it. That is what our readers do and without them, where would we be?