Being your own worst (best) critic.

The role of “critic” has been unfairly jabbed as of late. Actually, it’s had a bad rap for while. Just ask the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, who wryly noted several decades ago that, “A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic.”

True. But unfair.

The aphorism of “Don’t kill the messenger” comes to mind here. Critics have long held the awkward and oft-underpaying job of relaying impartial and informed observations to the masses. Such warnings could include advice on bar or concert halls to avoid. In writing, thinking critically doesn’t mean you have to “criticize” your own work. It simply means you are stepping outside of yourself to objectively view your creations.    

As writers, we need to develop an eye for common mistakes. If I’m in a hurry, I know that for some reason I’ll duplicate a word from time to time. Once I have finished a draft, I’ll print it out and look it over with a pencil in hand. Then, I’ll read it out loud. The best piece of advice I have is to set your article aside for a day. Coming back to edit when you are relaxed gives you a fresh perspective. Treat your prose as you would anyone else’s. Remember, we all make mistakes. Looking at your work critically means what you are going beyond looking for typos. Your ultimate goal is to reach the level where your writing is insightful and elegant.

It’s no easy feat, but you can help yourself greatly by taking on the role of critic in addition to writer.


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