Blogtalk: Compassionate Criticism and Avoiding Distraction 4

Compassionate Criticism

Sharon Lippincott just posted one of the best lists of constructive feedback rules for writers I’ve seen. It’s similar to the list of guidelines I give all my students, but I think Sharon’s is better articulated. (I think I’ll have to steal it. Okay with you, Sharon?)

I think one of my favorite rules on her list was to “limit comments about needed improvements to the two or thee most compelling ones.” It can be overwhelming, even when you’ve just been given positive feedback for your piece, to then receive ten points of negative criticism. And pairing the comments about things that aren’t working with ideas and suggestions (not prescriptions) for ways to improve the writing is the best way to make the feedback constructive. Check out Sharon’s article, then come back and join the discussion.

What’s the best writing feedback you ever received?


Avoiding Distraction

A common complaint of most writers I know is their seeming inability to stop distracting themselves from writing. The usual way of doing this used to be handling all those niggling little chores around the house. Like the laundry, or cleaning the kitchen. Maybe taking the dog for a walk. Now, the problem is the Internet.

Well, that’s easy, you might be thinking. Just close your email program. Close your browser. Refuse to do anything but write for your allotted time. Yes, it’s that simple, but that takes intention and (horrors!) discipline. Not something we all have in great supply.

So I was pleased to read in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Katherine Boehret, Focus! No Willpower Required, that there are some new programs on the market to help us override our natural desire to procrastinate. Among these, is a program called Freedom, which allows you to disable your computer’s networking ability for up to eight hours. And, to keep you from overriding the program before your time is up, you have to reboot your computer — an effective deterrent, if you ask me.

I downloaded the trial, which gives you five free uses. But the full program is only $10. I’ll let you know how how it goes. If you would rather disable only your social networks while you’re trying to write, they have a program called Anti-Social.

Do you use a program to help you manage Internet distraction, or are you among those who have learned to manage it on your own? What’s your method?



I’ve been using the Freedom app over the last few days, and I love it. Not only does it force me to focus (no quick diversions to check email), it serves as a work timer. For example, let’s say I’ve set it to block the Internet for 1 hour. At the end of the hour a little message pops up telling me I’m reconnected. Once I start writing, I don’t stop until the message tells me I’ve completed my session. Then I reward myself by getting up and stretching, checking my email, or whatever — before starting Freedom again for my next session. Too cool. And what a perfect tool for NaNoWriMo.


Image Credits:
360 Feedback by Jurgen Appelo
Do Not Disturb by Xavier Vergés


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4 thoughts on “Blogtalk: Compassionate Criticism and Avoiding Distraction

  • Sharon Lippincott

    Thanks for the mention Amber, and anyone is more than welcome to use those ground rules. I hope they help writing groups thrive all around the world!

    That Freedom program sounds terrific. I’ve removed the games from Windows. Freedom sounds equally powerful.

  • Grace

    I’m going to check out Sharon’s list. I’ve been corresponding with a fellow writer and we’re having a great time evaluating each others’ work but I’m sure we can use the list.

    Funny that the program to limit your computer is called “Freedom.” 🙂