Posted by: cmittermeier | November 26, 2014

Honesty, criticism, ideals

As I sat in the chapel yesterday, I got the librarian stare from somewhere deep inside. We all know that stare, the call to something “more” that reminds you to do better. With it, the internal dialogue went over so many dynamics of what it means to live out that librarian stare. The subtleties and the larger techniques whizzed past me. As I am now homeschooling my boys this is a huge focus of my life, and I am far from a master.

When you see someone working below what they are capable of, the question is how to raise them up. There are times when I get it right, but whoop-de-do, I need to focus on where I get it wrong and work on that, while maintaining the times I get it right. So when do I fail the most?

I find time is the biggest factor in whether I get it right. That just means I need to breath and be in the moment, or, put it off till I can be. Additionally, like all markers, there is a huge difference between face to face and the black and white of ink. Staring at the spelling test my son got 44% on, reading their creative stories for their blogs, it is far easier to jump straight to the growl.

Age is also another factor because it is far too easy to assume one is at a later stage and lean towards a harsher critic. Part of aging is developing a skin that is tough enough to handle criticism, and even further is realizing that the best way to improve is to seek out criticism. My oldest is well aware of the damage a lack of critic has done to him, but he’s still working on being able to ask for it. It is far too easy for me to push older individuals to be able to defend their stand, and to point out the the inconsistencies and illogic of their reasoning.

My oldest, being autistic, cannot “hear” his voice. To know what I mean, watch The Big Bang Theory and see how Sheldon sounds. The young man has no idea how arrogant and condescending his words are. If you have never lived with a Sheldon, consider all those lessons from grade school on putting tone into writing. We forget when writing that tone is carried only in the text itself, and so even if were to write words spoken playfully, a reader may choose a different tone. We have all experienced this, even if you haven’t experienced living with a Sheldon, so you can well understand that when faced with it I find it hard to critic without letting my frustrations find a vent.

I also know that, especially with the school side of my boys, the larger picture looms too large at times. My ability to help them face their failings and move to the next level is often compromised because I wish they were further along. I look at how many math lessons they have done, how many are left, and focus too much the fact that we are behind. Problem is, there are only so many ways to speed things up and more often pushing the horse does not speed up getting the cart to market. Again, the answer is to breathe and return to the moment.

My nature is to nurture, to help those who are around me when possible. There are some I know I have no direct influence on, and others like my sons who I am expected to be a very direct influence on. Then there is every one else, somewhere in between. Recently, I crossed the line when I dealt with another very talented writer. She has much to offer, but she’s young (though I can’t say she’d agree that there are things she can still learn). I am greatly sorry for the rift I created, especially because I assumed my critique was welcomed. For all I knew, she wanted her writings to be at the “praise only” level. Its a legitimate stage of development folks, we all started there – or at least I tend to start there.

I like it best when it is a two way street, I have so much to learn. I was a mathie, not an English major! I still find it hard to read my work and check for just one main idea and supporting details. Not to mention, I have this bias against analytical critiques. I do not want to be given a “formula” for my writing. It is my creative outlet, so I find it hard to seek out good critics who won’t go analytical. Years ago, I had so hoped this young, talented woman would have been able to help improve my writing. Her respect for the creative element was breathtaking.

Its funny, she is weak in her analytical side – and that is the one thing I was good at. We had much to offer, but, I am pretty sure she never wanted it in the exchange in the first place. Such is life, we all look in the wrong places from time to time. But, I over stepped my bounds, and for that I am sorry.

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