Sunday, January 15, 2012

Can You Wrestle With Your Critique Group?

I think I have one of the world's greatest critique partners.  She is reliable and she is relentless.  We've been part of the same weekly writing group for several years now.  The members have changed, but the two of us have stayed consistent and kept it going.  We have really different, complementary styles.  But the best thing about her is that I can argue and wrestle with her and she laughs and forgives me.

Now, I realize I shouldn't abuse this privilege.  I have no patience for people who can't handle feedback.  Why be in a critique group if you're not willing to be critiqued?  However, I've discovered something about myself.  I learn by wrestling through things.  I learn by arguing, discussing, disagreeing.

I don't get biblical on this blog too often, but I'm about to do it now.  You've been fairly warned.  There's a passage in the Bible where Jacob wrestles with an angel.  It's where the name Israel comes from and it means "he who wrestles with God."  I LOVE this story, because it absolutely contradicts the notion of blind obedience.  In fact, Jacob goes at it with the Lord Almighty, wins the match, and gets a blessing for it.    

My teacher self has another example.  The latest brain research shows that you build more neural connections from working on a difficult problem, whether you get the right answer or not, than from solving a problem you already know.  In fact, kids who struggled and wrestled and were taught the value of that PROCESS actually did better on post-assessments than students who were simply told how smart they were.  I have a feeling I'm not doing this particular bit of info justice, but the summary is - when you struggle to understand something, your brain grows.

So, back to my critique group.  As much as I fear I may drive poor Suzanne crazy with my questions and responses and arguments, I am so tremendously grateful that she doesn't write me off and let annoyance get the better of her because the process of wrestling with her is making my work better and me better as a writer.  And that is a blessing.

What battles and struggles have you found valuable?  Who are your favorite folks for a good intellectual wrestling match?


  1. Anonymous3:03 AM

    I love the idea of my brain growing as I try to solve a problem, although I do wonder why it hasn't popped out of my head yet with this crazy habit I have of doing a physics degree.

    I started writing a comment about how my most trusted man of feedback helps me, but it became a little long so I posted it on my blog.

    A good partner is priceless.

  2. Yeah, a physics degree would grow some dendrites! I'll be sure to check out your blogpost.

  3. To read the blogspot referenced above, go to

  4. I love the idea of your brain growing with struggles! It explains a lot and seems rewarding :)

    Just here for critique my blogfest (a little late I apologise!) but I love your blog and there's only one thing I would change, the one post per page, so that if I want to read older posts I need to click a link every time. Apart from that it's great!

    I love the large font, the sidebars are great and your header is clear and simple, as is the tagline :)

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Julz! I've been tinkering with the blog through this whole blogfest thing. I've switched the number of posts per page back to more than one.


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