Friday, July 29, 2016

Creativity Coupled with Fear of Critique is Doomed to Failure - Creative Writing Professor, Queens College, Spring 88

At the end of my third year of undergrad I took a Creative Writing Class at Queens College. I had always dabbled in writing stories. What gamer hasn't? My professor had a ponytail, was in his late 30s or early 40s and had a couple of works of fiction behind him. He fit the look of "a creative".

The first day of class he mentioned that the course was a "peer review" type course. We were going to read each other's works and critique them. Afterwards, he would critique both the work submitted and the critiques.

One student balked at the "peer review". He didn't like the idea that other students would be reading his work, let alone offering critique publicly in class. He signed up to have his work reviewed and edited by the professor, not other students.

The professor's response still resonates with me today:
Creativity coupled with the fear of critique is doomed to failure. If you create just for yourself and not for your audience, you may as well stay in bed each morning and masturbate. You'll find it both more satisfying and more pleasurable. Creativity finds it's spark when enjoyed by another, and it's flame when those touched by it share with others. 
Creativity often goes hand in hand with playing RPG. You create adventures, map out worlds, some even create their own rules. Then you share it with your gaming group. If you did well, they not only enjoyed it but maybe offered suggestions to make it better. Maybe not better in your eyes, but in their eyes.

The eyes of your audience.

These days I blog and write gaming material. This summer I've been working on the whole idea of a 4 page OSR system, stripping down Swords & Wizardry: White Box to what I'm currently calling Swords & Wizardry: Light. Rules, adventure, setting, my plate is full.

I'm not writing this for myself, although I have written gaming material in the past more as an exercise and less for an audience.

This project, however, has a targeted audience - The Lapsed Gamer. So, it must appeal to that audience as well as the current OSR gamer who may be looking for a ruleset that will slip into a back pocket and that can be printed on a single sheet, ready to go when needed. Tall order, as small as it is.

I've been silent on it recently, mainly because I haven't gotten as far with it as I would like - or had hoped. Summers are busy times and even the recently retired can find themselves stretched beyond their normal time constraints. But it is progressing. Material will be making it's way here to The Tavern over the next few weeks. At which point, you, my loyal reader, will have a responsibility.

You'll need to critique my work. In public. For all to see. And yes, even your critique may be - critiqued.

All feedback is valuable, perhaps even more so if I disagree with it. The tendency to get too attached to your creation is always a fear one rarely wishes to acknowledge, especially to oneself.

Thank you in advance and I'll thank you again when the finished product is better for the eyes put upon it.


  1. I believe I will much more enjoy the critiques of critiques of works than the majority of the Internet which seems to be outrage at outrage of outrage over outrage with outrage about outrage for something.

    1. The Tavern is an "Outrage Free Zone" ;)

    2. Everything is just the amplification of a repetition of a summation of a reference to a symbol for a pointer to an interpretation of the generalization of a theory based on the misinterpretation of an assumption anyway, so why should critique be any different, yeah?

  2. I am OUTRAGED by the lack of outrage!

    (Not really though)

  3. Outrage is the fuel of the internet.

  4. I'm not outraged about anything ... but I will offer critique when the time comes. :-)

  5. When it comes to writing, if truer words than were spoken by you Professor. I have not heard them. Oh, and I still think you should call it S&W: Cantrip edition :-)

  6. You critique mine and I'll critique yours.

  7. I teach game design and narrative design at UT-Dallas. My Games & Narrative courses all have a workshop/peer review & critique component that takes up half or more of every class. Writing (and the reactions to it) is so subjective that getting just the prof's opinion hamstrings your ability to revise your work, as you're getting just one take on your writing.

    Especially when you're in the game industry, not getting feedback from your co-workers and peers just means that the first feedback you'll get is from fans and reviewers, and they'll point out that your writing sucks. ;)


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