The Prompter Room

For Sunday, January 10, 2016:


“I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never seen a statue of a critic.”

Leonard Bernstein

“I criticize by creation, not by finding fault.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Cicero has a good idea for an exercise, especially if you’re blocked in any way.

Have you read something that you disagree with or that makes you mad?  Answer the writer with your own words.  Write an essay or story or poem, then, that explains how and why.

I did this years ago, before reading this quote of Cicero’s, when I read something in a book by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.  Most of her non-fiction writing is beautiful, even enlightening, but part of one chapter made me so mad, I had to put the book aside and write out why I thought she was wrong about this one aspect of her narrative.

That one little essay, which no one ever saw, led me to think about the possibility of writing my own non-fiction for publication. A year or so later, I submitted and found a home for a different essay, and a few others followed over time.  None of them were paying markets, but each acceptance built up my publishing credits and, most importantly, my confidence.

Think of the exercise as an annotation or a type of review: what works, what doesn’t, is anything missing, how can it be better, what would you add or remove?  Why?

Critical thinking is always better, in my view, than criticism.  It’s definitely more creative, and it can serve as a springboard for something even better.


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