Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy Birthday Mr. Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

Big day today for fans of Will Shakespeare. It's his 450th birthday. He lived a mere 52 years but what an influence he has had on the English speaking world. The playwright, poet and actor began life in Stratford-Upon-Avon in England and he died there, too.

Several years ago, Ken and I visted this charming town on the River Avon. We saw the outside of the place where his birth supposedly took place, and we visited and toured Anne Hathaway's cottage. Anne and Will married when he was 18 and she 26. I would think she was considered a spinster at that age during that period of time. The story goes that Miss Anne was pregnant at the time of the wedding. Great fodder for gossip at the local shops and marketplace.

After seeing the announcement that this is William Shakespeare's birthday, I got to wondering if one of the world's most famous playwrights had a critique group. Did he sit around a table at a pub with other men in the arts world? Did they banter back and forth as to who was the best? Which one could claim the most fame? Who was  the dunderhead of them all? More importantly, did they look at one another's work and offer suggestions?

If they did critique one another's work, did they do it politely or with scathing words tossed across the table? Did they compliment one another when face to face, then tear another writer apart behind his back? Were they all good enough friends that they could accept criticism in any form? We'll never know the answers to these questions.

Whether William Shakespeare had a critique group, or even a single mentor, in his writing world is of little importance to us today, it's more of a curiosity topic. But for writers in our own world, having that one special mentor or a writing group of some kind ranks very high on my list of what a writer needs.

Whether a single mentor or a group, you can only benefit from their input. You'll grow as a writer by truly  listening to what they tell you about your writing. You might not like some of what they say. It's a bitter pill to swallow at times. You'll appreciate any praise you receive but you'll learn from the constructive criticism. Enter any critique group with the proper attitude and you'll come out the winner. Go in with a poor attitude and you'll reap poor results.

When you are in the position of critiquing someone else's writing, keep in mind that you should point out all the things you liked as well as what you felt could do with some revision. Be honest but be kind. Keep in mind that you might be the person being critiqued next.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare. We're still benefiting from the words you wrote in longhand so long ago.

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