Sunday, 28 November 2010

Critiquing & feedback

Hello! Back to the blog after a wonderful travelling holiday.

On my mind: giving people feedback that supports their creativity and motivation. On my mind because I am getting RSVPs for my Creative Open House. It is a celebratory party, a weekend afternoon open house, and for fun, the invitation asks people to

bring something small(ish) that you have made
or written or photographed or otherwise created, or,
if you deem yourself not creative,
a postcard, shell, stone, feather, flower
or other pretty/handsome/fun thing
for each other to love, remark, admire,
not to judge, just to share...
or just come and enjoy a temporary gallery

I've invited lots of my long-time students, my papier mache group, my novel-writing group, haiku friends, creative-writing-teaching friends, psychoanalytic fellow students, and local friends and neighbors. In other words, my kind of people.

It is fascinating to see the way people respond. I didn't mean the whole thing as a terrific challenge, just a bit of fun and mutual 'gosh! gee! wow! how interesting! I love that too!' OR 'You did that! I never knew...' OR 'That's so pretty (astonishing/interesting)'

As I expected, the writer-types and art-makers are intrigued and all for it. But a surprising (to me) number of others seem to feel put-on-the-spot. When they express this to me I jolly them along and remind them it can be something they like, not something they made. Of course some may have RSVPd NO out of sheer stage-fright.

The instant reaction I'm most chuffed about is by hearsay from the younger generation (early 20s) who glimpse the invitation and say: 'What a great idea for a party!'

So what does this have to do with teaching creative writing? It's a reminder that so many people are so 'tongue-tied' and shy about revealing themselves, about feeling confident in liking and sharing something, about the very notion of their own natural creativity.

Gentle, consistent, encouraging feedback is ESSENTIAL if writing students are to grow in their writing. This does not mean not to criticise (more on that another time), but is a reminder to me and all of us that confidence and pleasure in writing/making/seeing/being comes before any progress is possible. Usually? Agree? Disagree?

Also, re teaching, this could be an idea for your class's end-of-term party. See how they react to the invitation!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Susan (welcome back! Glad you had a good trip). That's a great idea for a party! (I agree with the twenty-somethings!). Too late for me to do this for my end of term party because it's next week and we've already agreed what we're going to do but maybe another time!
On the subject of sensitive souls and encouraging them, I was delighted last week when a very shy person in my class - who has, for 7 previous weeks, not said a word - read out his character sketch written as part of a class exercise and, last night, read the (wonderful) Haiku that he'd written for his 'homework'. I felt like he'd suddenly 'blossomed' - it was very rewarding. I just wondered if you have any tips for drawing out/encouraging the really quiet people? I used to be one myself so I know how hard it is if you are shy but it's a shame - they miss out on so much.
Best wishes