Effective Writing Critique

I’ve been part of writing groups, both in person and informally online. The best way to improve your own writing and be able to read it critically is to learn how to critique other people’s writing.

It’s easier to find problems in other people’s writing, because you experience it as the reader rather than the author.

I’ve grown as a writer through working with Justine on Over the Invisible Wall and having a consistent exchange of writing. We’ve been reading and critiquing each other’s work since the beginning. That helps both of us to see what we’re doing right and wrong and point that out to the other person.

This is the blogging month with Praxis, and we write a post and comment on two other people’s posts everday. Not only are we practicing writing itself, but we’re also practicing writing critique.

I’ve made a point of noting places the post I read was confusing or distracting or any other problems that seemed to be in how the post was written.

But I’m not overly critical of the piece, and my approach is important. If I only provide negative feedback, that will bring my cohort down.

I can’t just point out what’s wrong, I also have to point out what’s right and what I like about the post.

Having that positive feedback is not only encouraging, it also makes it easier to take the criticism, to realize that it’s not an attack, but intended to be helpful.

With my experience of giving critique in the past and practicing it now, I’m improving my ability to look at my own work critically. I get quicker at recognizing the problems in my own posts, my own writing, and learn how to fix them.

Writers can’t improve in a vacuum. Writing practice will take you far, but critique can multiply the benefits for you and your fellow writers.

Productivity, Recap, and Accountability

This is partially part of the series Recap, but only loosely so. It will not have the structured Notes then Response sections. Instead, it will harken unto my previous post on productivity and what I learned and am implementing from two recorded Praxis Group Sessions with Amanda Grimmett.

[I do have one note. I avoid swearing, but in this case it was in the name of the workshop.]

Maximizing Your Output:

Have a plan for the day to have more focus and structure. At the end of the day write down what you did and what the next step is to decrease ramp-up time.

Have a list of priorities to return to when you get pulled in different directions so you know what to do when you get back.

Dedicate blocks of time to projects.

Ask bosses when they need a requested task done so you can prioritize it.

Getting Shit Done:

Dump, sort, work. List everything that needs done. Then sort tasks into categories and prioritize them. Then get to work.

Recommended online tools: Wunderlist, Trello, Asana, Monday, Swipe

Implementation:

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I have a large notebook I bought at Walmart for $4 or $5 bucks. I write the date and day of the week, today’s time-specific obligations, and tomorrow’s time-specific obligations. Then I draw a line and write my to-do list. Everything after the to-do list is notes on what I’ve done, notes on live calls for Praxis, or sometimes notes on recorded Group Sessions as well.

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Additionally, inspired by the GSD workshop, I reached out to my cohort, the participants who started Praxis at the same time as I did, to start an accountability group. We’ll push each other to meet our Praxis goals, both short term weekly goals and the long term whole bootcamp goals. We’ll also keep each other accountable to other goals we set for ourselves.

Recently I’ve had a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed at almost the same time every night and getting up at almost the same time.

I don’t always approach my work in an orderly fashion, doing a lot of task switching. Not in the middle of a task, unless I get stuck or otherwise need a break. Once I get into a groove, I can bust out most of my to-do list before I head to Walmart in the early afternoon. By switching tasks I can continue working without getting burnt out or bored by continuing to focus on one thing.

For example, I’ll work on blog posts for a while. Sometimes this is as simple as editing the notes and response I wrote for some content I consumed, as for Recap, or it’s more complicated, like My Birthday: A Reflection. Then I might switch to check in with the Over the Invisible Wall team to remind them of work that needs done so we stay on track and taking care of anything that they need me to do. Then I’ll switch to working on my Praxis deliverables or giving feedback on my cohorts’ deliverables.