It's time to explore another of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers!
Habit #4 is called Think Win/Win
"Win/Win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions." When I read that sentence, I instantly thought of the critique partner relationship and how vital it is for writers to have critique partners they can rely on. It can be so hard to find critique partners and maintain a relationship with them. I've had numerous friends ask me where I've found my critique partners, and how I've stuck with them (and they, me!) over the years.
I believe that having a "Think Win/Win" attitude is a key part of the critique partner relationship. You must both want each other to Win, both in your relationship with each other and in writing in general. What does that look like? Here are some examples:
-I don't like my CPs to send me a chapter at a time; I prefer to get the whole novel at once. But one of my CPs really wanted to send her novel to me a piece at a time while she worked on it, so I agreed. This could have been a Lose/Win situation, where I gave up something I wanted to placate her. But my CP did a great job of incorporating my feedback from the previous piece into the next piece she sent me, so that I wasn't just repeating myself constantly with each chunk of work she sent. That made me feel like I had gotten exactly what I wanted, too!
-I like to do Camp NaNoWriMo in July and focus heavily on my own writing. A new CP asked back in May if I could read for her at some point over the summer. I was upfront about my NaNo plans, and said I could read in June or August. She knew she'd be busy during the early part of the summer, so we agreed that I would read for her in August. Both of us got what we wanted, because we were clear in our communication.
-One of my CPs texts me every month or so to check in on my work, even if I haven't sent her anything to read in a while (I'm a very slow drafter). She cares about my overall writing Wins, and makes a point of showing that she cares, without making me feel bad about not sending her any work.
In order to have this Win/Win relationship, Covey says that these 3 components must be present:
It can take a while to build up integrity with another person, especially if you don't see them frequently. (This describes 90% of my CPs) So we must demonstrate integrity from the beginning. If you are trying out a new CP relationship, be sure to get work back to your partner by the agreed upon deadline. Thank them right away when they get work back to you. And if something comes up that's going to interfere with either of those things, keep your CP in the loop.
Covey calls this "the balance between courage and consideration." In critiquing someone else's work, you must find that balance between expressing your feelings about the work (especially if they are negative!) and considering the recipient's feelings about your critique. Most of us intuitively know that a good critique does not look like "This sucks." And we also know that a good critique does not look like "This is perfect, change nothing!" Neither of those are helpful. We must strike a balance between those two extremes to help our partners as we support them in seeking their writing Win. Which leads me to...
To be a good critique partner, you must believe that there is "plenty out there for everybody." You must support your partner as they seek for a publishing Win (securing an agent, getting a publishing contract, whatever), and not see their Wins as obstacles making your Wins harder. One of my CPs and I entered a writing contest together. At first we thought our work was in different categories, but soon we realized we'd be in direct competition with each other for the prize. And it made no difference. We both critiqued each other's work with an eye towards making it the best it could be. We would not see each other's wins as losses for ourselves.
How do you Think Win/Win in your critique partner relationships?