When it comes to critiquing work for a partner/friend, we all have our strengths. Kristi had an excellent post about why it's great to have more than one crit partner. In it, she mentions one person might be great at pointing out plot holes that everyone else misses. Another catches every spelling and grammatical error.
I've been thinking about critiquing lately, because I honestly don't think I'm that great at it. I'm that word girl, the one who spots the spelling errors. But I've noticed that I don't always have a lot of in-depth things to say. Then I realized, that's not entirely true. I have done a lot of critiquing, not just for my Sisters, but for personal friends, acquaintances etc. And I've given great (I hope) feedback. My problem is that I don't always apply myself. I don't do my best. And the biggest reason for that is self doubt.
I have been blessed with AH-MAY-ZING crit partners and on occasion I catch myself feeling like the weakest link and it shows in my feedback. Who am *I* to give her criticism on this incredible piece? I'm a reader. I'm a writer. And I honestly want her book to be the very best it can be. So even if you can't make sense of what doesn't work in your partner's piece, still tell her about it. Do your best. Try to pinpoint it but if you can't at least let her know "This part feels slow to me for some reason" or "That dialog stands out".
We all have self-doubt. Can we really write a novel? Can we get an agent? Will we ever be published? Honestly, not everyone will. Because not everyone will push through the self-doubt and keep on truckin'.
Self-doubt manifests its self in a lot of different ways. We all go through bouts of it--be it with our critique groups, or our own writing goals--but you can get through it. And it helps to talk about it with your partners. Sometimes you just need a little pick-me-up. An ego boost, if you will. So talk with your partners. Talk about writing, or talk about the strategy of your critiquing. What is working? What isn't? Are you doing your best? Why not? Lean on them. Use them. They can help.
But ultimately, it is up to you. You have to be willing to look at your writing or your critique style objectively and WANT to do better. Sure, you could sit back and say, "I suck anyway, so there's no point in really trying. This is as good as it gets."No, it's not. But it will be if you have that attitude. Writing and critiquing is work. But it's our passion! And what can be more rewarding than that?