Monday, August 18, 2014

Showing Your Sketch

This past week my school provided training about project based learning (PBL) from the Buck Institute of Education (BIE). I'm happy to say that the training was not a waste of time. I came away with some great plans for the year but, even more importantly, I gained tools to help the students recognize that the crazy stuff I do in class is part of a learning process. I always considered my teaching style to be one where I tricked students into learning. Unfortunately I'm so good at it that the students think we're not doing anything until they get that "OH!" moment at the end. Lesson learned: I'm good at projects, I'm bad at linking objectives to the content in a way the kids understand.

During these workshops we participated in an exercise called "Show Your Sketch." You get a ridiculously low amount of time to draw a sketch of a person across the room... then you show it to them. The perfectionists didn't just cringe, they cursed. How can you be expected to share work that is sooooo rough? Doing so makes you very vulnerable to criticism. It's not fair for my artistic skill to be judged after so little time. The purpose of this exercise was not to show how bad we were at art, but to open ourselves up to critique early in the creative process, to be vulnerable, and to be all in it together. My colleagues and I all had that, "a-ha!" moment and were able to apply this early/often critique need to the project designs during the remainder of the workshop.

Writers are not foreign to the concept of perfectionism, insecurity, and critiques. We are constantly revising and praying for a better quality product. Critiques are gifts, even when they make us doubt ourselves. Without them we exist in a bubble. Thank God for being able to show your sketch early and often BEFORE putting it out there to be judged by the writing industry.

As much as I like to think that I'm secure in my skills and strong enough to take criticism and turn it into a better book, I'm freaking out a little right now. For whatever reason, I'm comfortable sending my manuscripts to complete strangers, but when I got a  request from a writer friend, I got all nervous. It might be easier if I was showing a sketch, or the first chapters of a book in progress: sending a completed, revised, revised again and then one more time, manuscript to a friend (who asked for it, which is a blessing in itself), someone I've known for years, makes me doubt the quality of my product. The vulnerability involved here is tremendous and it shouldn't be. I can't place why -- I only know that I'm trying to write right now, and keep wondering if she's reading, what she thinks, etc... and can't get it out of my head.

On that note, I'll put my contemporary aside and get back to planning my projects for this year. I may be teaching middle school art (which was the plan) or 7th and 8th grade English (which meets a need), so I'm prepping for both.

How do you feel about showing your sketch? Any advice for taking criticism?


Melissa said...

Great post. Learning to critique and get them is as much of a process as learning to write!

Raquel Byrnes said...

Trusting someone with your 'baby' is indeed a cringe-worthy undertaking. Keep in mind that you are the ultimate judge of quality. Years of honing your craft make YOU the expert. :)
Raquel Byrnes

Christine Rains said...

Terrific post! I think it's difficult to share your work so early in the process, but sometimes it really helps a lot even if the criticism isn't what you want to hear.

Kathleen said...

I'm glad to hear that the staff development was not a big waste of time. I think it would be easier to share your work early on since you can rationalize...I didn't have time to hone it...then it would be to wait until you have a "honed" final project that people then begin to pick apart. That would suck. I agree with early and often!

Erin Kane Spock said...

I would like to thank Kathleen for writing to me privately so I could edit this post. There were some crazy errors. See? This was me showing my sketch and accepting critique. :)

Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

A.T. Post said...

Horrible. If I understood character I'd be a Stephen King, not a cut-rate Clive Cussler.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting and I'm sure successful authors would have differing views on how early to reveal your work to the critics. I recently saw a very interesting programme on Kate Bush and her work and that is where the quote came from on my blog today. While she gave herself the freedom to experiment and fail, she did not actually share her work until she was ready. I wonder whether that suggests confidence in good preparation or perfectionism? I'd like to think the former.

Morgan said...

Oh gosh… I am the SAME WAY… I definitely would rather send my work out to complete strangers than to people I know. Kind of makes me think of using a pen name for my books, LOL… (Because I'm sure it's so much worse with actual published books than just a beta read!!!!)

Loved the post.

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