|Is this how you think of critique?|
Depending on how long you’ve been circulating through the Christian writing community, you may have heard or read a conversation that goes something like this:
Writer 1: Hey, I’ve just finished my 750-page book on the life of Jesus, and I would love some feedback, if you’ve got the time.
Writer 2 (who is a nice helpful sort): Sure. I probably won’t be able to get through the whole 750 pages [yikes!], but if you send me a copy, I’d be more than happy to have a look at it.
Writer 1 whips a telephone-book-sized manuscript from his backpack and hands it to his vict— er, reader.
Writer 2: Oooph!
One week later …
Writer 1: Just wanted to know what you thought of my book.
Writer 2, thinking their honest opinion was sincerely wanted: Mate, I can see the truth of what you’re saying. I really can. Lots and lots of … er … truth, so that’s good, but the delivery was a little … um, dry [so dry, in fact, that I think it sandpapered my eyeballs]. Again, though, the teaching was all really solid [like a block of concrete]. So props for that, but it wasn’t, you know, all that … um, fresh. It was a bit like just reading the … you know, Bible.
Writer 1, sounding a teensy bit miffed: Of course the Holy Scriptures are the foundation for the truth, and the spiritually dead won’t appreciate that. As for immature Christians, they don’t have the ability to grasp the deeper concepts of faith.
Writer 2: [Whoa! Bring back the sun ‘cause I think I just got thrown some shade.] Yeah, well, I’m no Shakespeare, but maybe a bit of editing wouldn’t go astray. Little things, like aisle instead of isle. Lightning instead of lightening. Jesus instead of Jebus. Things like that. And paragraphs. Paragraphs would be good. And maybe a few adjectives now and then.
Writer 1, doing a good impersonation of a Chilean volcano: Editing? I received this message direct from the Holy Spirit. Every single word was inspired by Him. To change any of it would be to interfere with His perfection.
Need I go on? You get the point.
Although that was a slight exaggeration of the worst-case scenario, reactions like this do happen with thin-skinned, tender-hearted writers, and it is particularly difficult when a defence of holy inspiration is invoked. From an editor or publisher’s point of view, that’s when you hand back their telephone book of a manuscript and wish them every success (while thinking, “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out.”).
|Or do you recognise critique as a gift?|
Wielding the “holy inspiration” weapon against critique may protect a sensitive heart, but it does nothing to honour our creative and perfect God. Yes, He does often inspire His writers, but even when that happens, we are all imperfect clay vessels who need to hone and craft that inspiration so it shines for His glory and communicates His message in a clear and engaging way. That’s where critique comes in. In other words, instead of seeing critique and red ink as the enemy, see it (and the one offering the critique) as a blessing straight from the heart of God.
We often make the mistake of thinking that encouragement is only found in good, “positive” feedback. However, encouragement is wasted when a person thinks they already have it all together. Encouragement is a gift of truth, wrapped in love, and tied with grace. It is a shining beacon to help a person find their way when they wander off track (or were never on the track to begin with).
So instead of fighting against that helpful hand, or hiding with fingers in ears until the big, bad critique-giver goes away, step out with fearless confidence and receive the precious gift they are offering. (You can always exchange it later if it doesn’t fit.)
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
(Proverbs 27:17 NIV)
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DEB PORTER is a publisher (Breath of Fresh Air Press), writer, editor, and popular public speaker, with a particular gift for communicating in a way that is both enjoyable and easy for readers and listeners to understand. Deb has been the right hand person at FaithWriters.com since 2003, and is a regular speaker at conferences, but prefers to spend one-on-one time with authors at these events. As the Coordinator of the FaithWriters Writing Challenge since its inception, Deb has helped shape this weekly contest into arguably the most popular aspect of FaithWriters.com, and she now publishes the winning entries in the Mixed Blessings book anthologies.