Monday, September 27, 2010

The Critique Massage

In the movie Because I Said So, Diane Keaton’s character goes to a spa with her daughters. She insists on wearing her turtleneck for a massage. Sounds a little stupid, doesn’t it? I know I laughed myself silly at that scene because it reminded me of my first massage. The masseuse assured me I could wear a swimsuit, a two-piece one. If I were okay with wearing a bikini in public, then I would own one. I did survive that first massage because I relaxed and allowed myself to trust. It didn’t hurt that the guy was a total hunk.

It made me think critiques are a lot like massages. We all seem to like both in theory. I’ve talked to several of my friends and almost none of them have had massages. They’d like to, but they can't bring themselves to get on a table facedown and trust their body to a stranger. Same with critique groups, most people who swear they’ll never attend have had a bad experience. Often their experiences come rather vicariously. A friend of a friend endured horrible humiliation at a critique session; therefore, all critiques will follow the same pattern. What would happen if we applied the same reasoning to everything?

Who hasn’t had a book-worthy bad date? I had one write me a three-page critique on what I could do better. That didn’t stop me from dating. It did stop me from dating him, though. Same with massages, I had one woman put me in such extreme pain that she advised me to take three extra strength Tylenols. An unfair or hostile critique should be regarded the same way my review writing date was. Quite frankly, not all critique groups or partners are a good fit. Just like not all masseuses will suit.

A friend of my mine writes explicit romances and then tries to have them critiqued by church ladies. It isn’t working out well. RWA has several different genre groups. Inside these groups, you can often find the right person or persons to critique your work.

Critiquing is a trust relationship. You really are pulling off the turtleneck to submit yourself to a critique massage. A good partner knows to give equal praise and to recognize growth in your craft. Occasionally, you may not agree with a critique, that’s okay. Go with what feels right. In you’re feeling really mellow about your critique group, you might be ready for an actual massage.

I am very grateful for my critique partners. They are right up there with my actual masseuse. Yes, ladies, I am shallow—he is a hunk, but very good with his hands. When he is done, he always says, "Enough torture." I manage with effort to slide off the table.

I would be interested in hearing about your critique and massage experiences, both torturous and heavenly.


Clarissa Southwick said...

Great post, Wyatt. I love my critique partners and couldn't live without them. I love massages but not from strangers. :)

morgan said...

Thanks for stopping by Clarissa. I think your maseuuse can become like your hairdresser, a valuable resource. It was hard getting my sister to share her hairdresser with me. You'd think blood was thicker than hair products. She finally did--noweveryone tells us how much we look alike.:)

Ana Morgan said...

I think the cruelest thing a critiquer can do is be gentle. My manuscript is a WIP. Tell me what could be improved. Hit me with a better word choice. Help me polish it so I have a real shot at getting published. An editor's rejection will sabotage my confidence far more than any well-intentioned critique.
Ana Morgan

morgan said...

What a lovely way to look at things. It is like the question: do I look fat in these pants? We want our critique partners to tell us to wear the other pants. We need SOMEONE to tell us. Thanks for stopping by.


Emma Leigh said...

I love a good massage and have no trust issues there. However, I have yet to find a good critique partner so there is a hesitancy on my part to try to find another.

Excellent post!!!!

Jill James said...

Great post. I've never had a massage but I did get a facial once. it took some 'out of comfort zone' to let the lady wrap me in a towel so my arms were trapped. Just like going for a critique, my first time was 'out of comfort zone' too. I was beyond shy and my face was burning by the time I explained I was there to join the writing group.