Are You Sure You Want To Be Critiqued? (You’d Better Be Certain)

by James L. Rubart

Back in the mid-nineties I was doing a lot of magic shows.
At one of them, another magician approached me about developing an act together. His idea was strong: Dueling magicians set to the tune, Dueling Banjos.

The setup was I would be a heckler in the crowd as my
partner started the show. 
After three or four barbs from me about how even I could do
better magic than him, Jerry would call me out and challenge me to come up on
stage for a magicians duel to the death. I would come up and we’d do trick after trick—in which
I would always blow it and he’d shine.
Finally, I’d get so frustrated I’d pick up a gun, fire it
at him and he’d catch the bullet in his teeth. Then we’d go on to do another 20
or 30 minutes of magic.
Our reputation grew till one day we played a rather large
venue north of Seattle. The place was packed and judging by the crowd response
during the show and afterwards, we killed it.
That Monday morning, I asked my business partner (who had come to
the show) what he thought of the performance and what we could have done better.
I was ready for lavish praise, but that’s not what I got.
“Well, your blocking was a little weak. And you should have
had some music or something when you brought volunteers up on stage. It was
like dead air on a radio station as they walked up. Your banter was good with
each other, but a few times it went on too long. And that one trick with the
paper balls is awesome for adults, but it’s over the kid’s head.”
I sat there stunned as he went on and on. What did he think
he was doing? It felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. I was ready to hear how
awesome we were. How loud the applause was. 
Funny! Mystifying! Had the crowd in
the palm of our hands! I wasn’t asking for him to hammer me. Except, that is what I asked for—what we could have done better.
My business partner was right of course. About everything.  
You understand the application to our writing so I won’t go
Sometimes we need encouragement. Sometimes we need critique.
The encouragers will keep us going. Those who critique will
make us better. We need both.

Just know what you’re asking for—and who you’re asking. Your
stomach will thank you for it.
James L. Rubart is the best-selling, and Christy award
winning author of six books, including his just released novel, Spirit Bridge. During the day he runs
Barefoot Marketing, which helps authors make more coin of the realm. In his
free time he dirt bikes, hikes, water skis and take photos.  No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his
amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young
enough to water ski like a madman. More at