A Challenge

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One of my all-time favorite authors is Nadine Gordimer and she said something once which has stuck with me all these years. "Learning to write comes from your own recognition of what is wrong with your own work."

I want to write well. Not just words that appeal to my own ear - but words that appeal to other ears. I have no idea what to write *about* or how to get it started and every novel I have ever started or even finished has struck me as being "about nothing" which I hated. Blech.

Now - here's the catch.

Most of the folk who read this are journalers, I'd assume. We have our own unique style of writing - which I *adore* - and even in its individual difference - it is much the same, genre wise. (amongst the "good" journals) Conversational, familiar. Ongoing.

I want critique! I want to critique! Not journals (there is a list, crit-list) for that - but the WRITING in journals. I want to learn this craft instead of pretending to be, ya know?

Anyone interested in a round robin sort of WRITING critique (the words HTML, layout, design, etc. will be verboten)? Specific to the art of journal writing?



-- Catherine (catherine@cmjcom.com), November 16, 1999


Ah, I should have though of the possible contention. D'oh. Here's the scoop ... I wanted on the crit list, actually, but I understood it to be full.

In the meantime, I was thinking that I write into a void sometimes and with the sheer amount of saved words the opportunity for sloppy writing exists. I think this is a craft, separate from other styles of writing, and I'd like to pursue the improvement that craft, if you will - which I think of as being distinct from a "journal" critique, per se.


-- Catherine (catherine@cmjcom.com), November 17, 1999.

I know *nada* about the crit-list. So I can't speak ot that at all. But I'm glad to see so much support for a writing critique.

Both on-line writing and writing a journal or other autobiographical work are quite distinct from novel or other forms of writing. What makes for "good" writing in an on-line journal?

I suppose once we define that (if we can) we have a place to start. In order to critique something you need a benchmark of some sort - even if it's general - like "must contain vowels".

I have some goals with my writing and I wonder if I meet them - as I am not in a position to judge myself. That was the impetus for this discussion. So, I thought I should ask people to critique my work so I could appreciate how it affects people who read it. Does it have the impact I intend? If yes - why? If no - why not?

It makes for a somewhat dry discussion of recording a life and seems a little at odds with itself, I'll admit.

But I use my journal to practice the sort of writing that I would like to pursue - and therefore how I execute it is important to me. Make sense?

So, I guess I will start an egroup or one-list (they merged, didn't they?) list and put a note in the journal when it's up.

This will be quite grand - I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime I guess it'd be important for the people who want to particiate to be thinking of an introductory statement that explains the sort of writing they're looking to produce - the sort of reactions they want from people, including themselves.

Catherine Writing a sh*tload of backstory in the journal at present... I'm in a time machine, it seems.

-- Catherine (catherine@cmjcom.com), November 17, 1999.

I'm in.

I quit the real crit-list around the time the dust-up in journal-l happened (I was coming up for critique in a few weeks from there, and it was made all too clear even before that, that there was hard feelings involved, and I felt I would have been a disruptive factor. PLEASE, no one try to answer that, okay? That was my feeling, and from what I heard afterwards about judging one's life, I'm very glad I went when I did. It's done with, and doesn't need answering, no matter what's changed in relations with anybody. I had already been critted three times already.)

But I do miss it...I'm one of the few who critiqued EVERY journal that came up on time....and I flatter myself I gave good advice.

One can't grow as a writer without CONSTRUCTIVE critiques, as opposed to destructive and vague ones--specific ones, not ones you have to guess at.

I'm in.

Al of .

-- Al Schroeder (
al.schroeder@nashville.com), November 16, 1999.

if i can get a/my journal online in a timely enough manner, it sounds interesting. i am not sure exactly what it means, but i would be game to give it a try. it might make me exercise my critiquing muscle. i tend to love just about everything written and am just happy to be entertained, moved, and generally included in a life not my own. and that is how it feels to me. i already consider you, catherine, a friend. even though you know only enough about me to have responded to my query about starting an online journal.



-- julie boyd (jackmontana@hotmail.com), November 16, 1999.

Yes, I'd like to participate. I've had little constuctive criticism over the years and would like to learn how to improve.

I'm especially interested in ways my journal writing style might be applied to fiction.

-- Javina Kiume (j@digital-u.com), November 16, 1999.

I'm in. I always felt a little too pressured by the Crit-List....too scary and prone to get hung up on irrelevant things.

-- Ceit (chris.gould@sympatico.ca), November 16, 1999.

Not having participated in such an exchange before, and having the pictures in my journal flattered far more often then the words, the idea of a writing-only critique scares the hell out of me.

(Count me in, please.)

Steve http://late-night-snacks.com

-- Steve (steve@late-night-snacks.com), November 16, 1999.

I'd love it! Seriously interested, though I would be prepared for the fine line in critiquing content/writing only... it could get sticky.

But, the rest (HTML, design, etc...) is far less interesting. Also, I'd like to see life blown into the idea of critiques and very excited about a forum that would focus only on the writing.

Please count me in!

-- Tammy (tammy@sgtec.com), November 16, 1999.

I think it's a great idea Catherine! I do want to add something because it makes my hackles stand on end when someone, says something that just isn't the way things are or have gone down. Al, the crit list is alive and well and here is a cut and paste of an e-mail about why a "life" crit as some call it. When we take on the responsibility of doing a critique of someone's journal, we owe them the honesty that we would want :

"This whole process comes with baggage and things that each of us standing on either side of a week has brought along with us. As the critiquee you have the choice to respond or not. Your life is up there for the world to read. You either want to know what others come away with or you don't.

Critique is all about opinions. What others think/feel/see in those pages.

There in lies the beauty of having so many participate.

-- Mary (easywriter@journals.dreamfires.com), November 16, 1999.

I think that it is a great idea. I like journals that contain beautiful language far more than those that have only beautiful design, and I would personnaly love any critisism that helped me add beauty to my own words.

-- Lara (larisa_81@hotmail.com), November 17, 1999.

How does anyone know what the Crit List is about when YOU have never been on it? I can't stand it when people make sweeping judgements on what it's like on the list.

-- Renee (justme@justme.org), November 17, 1999.

I'd love anything that can improve my writing, but I know I'd personally also like to know how the visual representation of my journal (the design and the stuff) represents the content.

I told Catherine that, to me, good design is the extension of the content into the visual. A person can capture the same "feel" their content (sans design) into the visual aspects of, say, their journal. That's the kind of feedback and input I'd be very interested in as well. There are journals out there with phenomenal design but the feeling I get from their content doesn't extend to that design and it always feels like a missmatched paring.

I'm not sure if this is making sense.

But yes, I'll be in for just a writing critique. I'd like to know how I can improve what I consider the weakest aspect of my journal.

-- Eileene (iko@woolgathering.net), November 17, 1999.



My apologies to the crit-list then, I very much enjoyed my time there, which I think is indicated that was my THIRD time on it. Forgive me for implying it might be a less than positive experience, and I can truthfully say that I would encourage anyone to go through it at least once.


Al of Nova Notes.

-- Al Schroeder (al.schroeder@nashville.com), November 17, 1999.

i'd be interested in taking part, certainly. though perhaps rather nervously. i crave proper critique: of my writing, of the structures i use, the approaches, and the weird textual habits i have, but i sometimes find it rather difficult to -give- a useful crit of someone else's work. it's so much easier to write an analysis of a text when the author has been dead these past two hundred years...

and i'd be delighted to leave aside the whole question of design to focus purely on the writing.

-- heyoka (katie@heyoka.com), November 17, 1999.

oh Al. I wasn't directing that to you. of course. I was talking about what Ceit had written:

"I'm in. I always felt a little too pressured by the Crit-List....too scary and prone to get hung up on irrelevant things. "

I guess I'll name names next time.

-- Renee (justme@justme.org), November 17, 1999.

Yeah, but I very MUCH do not want to scare anyone off applying for the crit-list---and some (not you!) have taken my words to mean that. They've been wonderful experiences, the first two times. And I'm glad for anyone who's deriving comfort from the comments by friends they like, also. My doubts about "life crits" may be founded on ignorance, but as I undestand it, some in the crit-list itself felt that way also. I apologize if some felt I was dissing the crit-list. I wasn't. Explaining, not attacking.--Al

-- Al Schroeder (al.schroeder@nashville.com), November 17, 1999.

In response to Renee...I'm sorry but your reaction hasn't made me any less leery of the Crit List. Jumping out with a wide-band (shall we say "sweeping"?) disparagement of myself just because I don't feel comfortable with the mental image I have formed of the Crit List? I haven't been on the silly thing because it's always been closed whenever I have gathered up the courage to see what it is like. I'm not sure I'd even want to now, if it feels like this.

I hate sweeping comments myself however, I was speaking of my own PERSONAL feelings about the Crit List, from the dribs and drabs I have gathered from speaking with journallers who have participated and from reading about the whole process on the site. I don't know how one comment (my own) can be construed as "people" unless I've suddenly split into several autonomous beings without noticing. But I have never implied that my feelings were shared by a greater whole and probably they aren't. A little tolerance please.

-- Ceit (chris.gould@sympatico.ca), November 17, 1999.

I'd like to participate; the crit list has always seemed to be an interesting yet entirely daunting idea. But this seems to be a bit friendlier...well, at least, I sort of know some of the people who will be involved.

And I'm good at judging my own design. [plus, I only change my design when I get an idea for a new one that i'm really enthusiastic about.] I'm a lot worse about judging my own writing. I used to be a part of a writing group where we shared and discussed each other's writing, and I found it incredibly helpful. I'd like to find that sort of thing again.

-- Kris (idat@madstop.org), November 17, 1999.

Ceit, I don't think that anyone can judge what a list is like if they are not on it or are not participating. You have made judgments on what you've heard and you did make a very sweeping statement.

It's mandatory that before you get involved in any kind of critique is that you are secure and ready to talk a lot of things out. It's not for the insecure or people who get their feelings hurt and won't discuss.

Catherine, it is a wonderful process when a group of people get together to compare things they read. What one may miss, the other points out and a bigger picture is created. Please don't let what has been said keep you from doing something that is a wonderful idea and would be beneficial to those who can be adult enough to participate. As long as they all discuss and are open to talking things out, even those things that make them uncomfortable.

And I for one am sorry that this came to your board but hope it will help to let you know a little of what you might have to deal with.

-- Mary (easywriter@journals.dreamfires.com), November 17, 1999.

I'm pretty much going to leave it at what Mary said. I DO want to state that I am not running the crit list this go-round. I didn't have the time. So to be honest, I'm not at liberty to tell anyone what is happening now or my opinions on it. I can say that I do it a bit differently.

I will be back at the helm come next early spring.

-- Renee (justme@justme.org), November 17, 1999.

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