Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stages of Critiquing Competence

(Or, the Chicken and the Egg, Revisited)

You may have already heard about the four stages of writing competence from Authoress's recent post or Mary Kole's post about dealing with rejection. My brief definitions (adding in a critique perspective, and a little bit of psychology) follow. If you already know the stages, feel free to skip ahead.

Stage the First: Unconscious Incompetence –You believe you’re great, but you stink. Your ego thrives under false pretenses.

Stage the Second: Conscious Incompetence – Your crit partner/group help you realize you stink. Your ego suffers, but rightly so. You come up for air, but you better hold your breath because you’re going under again. Soon.

Stage the Third: Conscious Competence – You know what you need to do to improve, but it’s a chore. Your ego starts to recover, but suffers multiple set-backs.

Stage the Fourth: Unconscious Competence – You’re one with your work and if you err, you hear that little critiquing voice inside your head and self-correct. Your ego is happy because people like what you write and you like that they like it. Of course, your ego worries that you’ll never write something as good as you just have. What? Did you expect a happy ending?

A long intro for a short thing to consider. As a critiquer, everyone has to push through these stages as well. Me. You. Everyone. Read the stages above again, and think of where you might be as a critiquer. And make plans to move to the next level.



I’m wondering, though. What do you suppose happens first? A person becomes a better writer, and thus a better critiquer, or the other way around? Is it simultaneous?

9 comments:

Anita said...

Aack! Too much philosophizing! LOL

That's a tough one to answer, about the chick or the egg. I'm going to have to think on it a while.

Great post, Mary!

rosehips said...

I think you have to have a handle on writing to really be an effective critiquer, but that then critiquing pushes you to improve your writing.

Krisz said...

You had to make things clear, right? Now I consciously know that I am at stage two - consciously incompetent...

As to what was first, I think it's an ever evolving circle, it has no end or beginning. One feeds the other and vice-versa. You are a writer, you write, you become better, then you critique and you become an even better writer, thus a better critiquer. Or something like that.

Marybk said...

Ha! OK, Anita. You get a pass for now.

Rosehips, you may be right, but there are also cases where someone's critiquing skills may outshine their writing skills. I can, for example, tell you why a movie didn't work for me, but you won't find me directing any time soon. :)

Krisz, it's definately an evolving cycle. And maybe it teeter-totters. Sometimes your skills at critiquing become better - which pulls your writing up to the next level, and other times it's vice versa. Hmmm.

Marybk said...

*definitely (Typo. Really, though? Just seeing if you're practicing your crit skills.)

Trekelny said...

OK, some points of clarity if I may?

1)Chicken, end of story. God did not wave his arms, have the lightning crack, and... create an egg.

2)Critiques are written things; so it appears pretty well set that your writing skill will put a limit on your ability to write a critique. Some of my friend-readers have called in their advice, and no question it changes the entire thing dramatically. For one thing, I'm not just listening or reading, I'm madly taking notes- so what they are trying to convey becomes just another thing I've written...

3)The key difference between critiquing and writing in my opinion is twofold- a) you're not on the hook, the heat is off, and b) what you're trying to do is a favor to someone else. This can be the reason why a person's critique can be better than their writing. And that circles back to what Mary has here. Writing is a process where we need to UNLOCK the full skill set we often display when we critique for others.

Marybk said...

Trekelny: I'll have to remember CHICKEN is the answer, the next someone poses that question to me. That's cool about taking notes on your MS from phone critiquers. Much like you would for an agent...

I like your theory on why people are better at seeing a writing faux pas in someone else's work.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

it's funny how sometimes when doing a critque for someone else, God reveals things about your own work.

Marybk said...

So true, Jennifer. Thanks for stopping by.

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