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Delusion in a Box Design    |    Laura Kajpust    |    [email protected]

April 21st, 2015

5 Tips for Critiquing Your Own Work

Critiquing your own work can be difficult, but I have good news: you get better at it with practice! To help you out, here are some tips for learning how to view your own work analytically.

1. Take a break.

It takes a lot of practice to be able to turn off your personal opinions and switch to a more critical eye. If you're not used to doing it, the best thing to do is take a break first! You want to get away from the project long enough to be able to see it differently, but not too long that you lose interest. Personally, I find a day to be good, but I wouldn't wait longer than a week. After that you're just procrastinating! :)

2. Start with the basics.

Go over the fundamentals first of whatever it is you're critiquing. For an illustration, you might consider: Is the drawing accurate? Are the shapes easily readable? What is the composition doing, and is it working? Does the lighting make sense? The mood created by the colors? For writing: Are the events believable? Logical? Do the character's actions make sense? Is the description adding to the mood, story, or characters? Are you using all senses? Where are you telling? Showing?

If you're still struggling and feel at a loss, try to view at it from the perspective of someone else. Be a bit of an actor and look at your work that way! What jumps out first? Where do their eyes keep going back to? Why? For stories, pretend you know nothing about your own story and look ONLY at what's actually written. With what it on paper, what would be their impressions? Can they determine what you're trying to say, or did you leave something out or unclear?

(Of course, if you don't know the basics...do some research! Google questions, read a book, or take a class!)

3. Analyze your reactions.

If something isn't working, or isn't matching with what you understand makes something good, try to ask yourself why it isn't working. Great works are created by good pieces being put together, so each has to carefully crafted and purposefully placed. Is the lighting unrealistic because you made it up? Did you not think of the mood before picking colors? Did you understand a character's motivation in your head, but didn't write it in a way others could understand?

4. Understand your decisions.

Look back at your basics and compare your results with the outcome. This will help you determine why a mistake happened, and how to avoid making it again. If you're critiquing yourself while working, this is great! Now you can make revisions and improve it. If the project is long done, that's fine too--you've learned something new to think about on the next one!

5. Don't beat yourself up.

It can be easy to realize what you should have done and think poorly of yourself for your lack of foresight. But this mindset doesn't help you at all! How could you have known when you only learned it now? If you know you messed something up, it's because you learned something and gained better judgment. That's a GOOD thing! No one becomes great without making mistakes.

You might make mistakes while critiquing your work and miss things you later discover somewhere else.
That's okay! Critiquing your own work is another skill that takes time to develop.

Mistakes mean you've gotten better at seeing them!