2016 Writing Self-Critique: Leveling Up My Craft, Process and Production

I’m at the stage in my writing where my expectations for myself are higher than my abilities, and I’m working hard to improve my writing quality and output to catch up. Awareness is the first step to improvement, so I believe it’s worthwhile to complete a writing self-critique. I looked for patterns of challenge areas in my writing craft, process, and production to identify ways I can improve. In 2015 I completed a self-evaluation of my writing to get a snapshot of my writing abilities, but I’ve learned a lot in the past year and my challenge areas have changed.

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A Creative Critical Self-Assessment: Graphic Design

I took a critical look at my fiction writing a few months ago, but found that assessing my graphic design practice actually felt more painful. While I subscribe to the tenet ‘you are not your work,’ I make a living from my graphic design and exposing my flaws felt more personal. But as a professional, I need to constantly improve my craft so that I continue to make products I’m proud of and that fulfill the needs of my workplace and clients.

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A Creative Critical Self-Evaluation: Fiction Writing

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Working on my novel in Scrivener.

Edit 12/2016: See my 2016 writing self-critique, the followup to this 2015 self-evaluation.

I recently turned 30, so I’m taking the opportunity to snapshot my creative skills and challenges. Knowing our weaknesses and instinctive tendencies is just as important as knowing our strengths, and allows us to be better creators, no matter what our medium. Honest self-evaluation – acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses – is the first step to improvement because it teaches me what I need to practice. I can also ask specifically for critiques of those elements where I need the most work. I’ve identified common challenges in my first drafts / mockups, as well as my successes and skills, areas where I excel.

I consider myself a skilled graphic designer within my field of expertise, environmental education – and a passable, almost-good-enough fiction writer. In both writing and graphic design, I tend to excess. With my focus on space opera, I write the grandiose. In graphic design, I prefer daring, out-there designs. I don’t believe excess is inherently flawed, but it’s not always appropriate to clear communication or suitable for branding, so it’s valuable to recognize in my work.

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The Troubles with Self-Improvement

Every December and January, the world turns introspective and looks for ways to improve. I follow Chris Guillebeau’s suggestion of an annual review, assessing all aspects of my life for ways I can improve. Self-improvement can feel banal, this time of year, because so many of us want the same things – to exercise, to eat healthily, to complete creative projects, to travel. I have to believe that working to improve myself is valuable, because it’s such an important part of who I am. Yet the act of self-improvement needs some consideration. It takes care to craft a truly meaningful annual review or new years resolutions that will positively impact our lives.

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Why I don’t carry the Ten Essentials on day hikes

I don’t carry the Ten Essentials with me on day hikes. I worry that having the right gear is over-emphasized, when your brain is the most important tool to bring with you on the trail. People want the comfort blanket of a list of gear – “if I carry these ten things, I’ll survive.” Yes, being prepared is important. I always carry a pack with survival gear…but my list is different than the Mountaineers’ systems. There is essential gear, but the requirements vary depending on the location, the weather (and forecast), and time of year. And two other resources – knowledge and other people – are probably even more important than gear.

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