Book Crit, Shook Wit

The time has come for us to face the music.

Sometimes the music is a pleasant tune played tenderly on a harp or a piccolo.

Other times it’s an 80s glam anthem. Some high-frequency shrieks, but an undertone of joy.

And then there are times when it’s Swedish death metal shredding your eardrums to bits.

The music I’m talking about is that of the book crit.

We’re at the time when we’re scheduling regular book crits—two to five of the bad boys a week. Five might seem like an absurd amount, but it’s really easy to balance them along with the three concurrent briefs, reflection slides, and writing a SCAB on a Tuesday night when your friend from Toronto is staying at your flat.

Book crits are quite a surreal experience. You sit face-to-face with someone infinitely more important than you while they intensely scrutinise your blood, sweat, and tear-filled months of hard work. At the edge of your seat, you’re perched, tensed, body ready to explode with each guffaw, snicker, chortle, sigh, gasp. These are the only sounds competing with the nervous whirr emanating from your laptop.

After all that tension—the shaking, sweating, nail-biting, crying, and, yes, bleeding (they will cut you) —you have to hear their thoughts on your work.

Their dreaded thoughts.

Not to brag, but I think I’ve had a lot of thoughts in my life. I’ve thought about cars. I’ve thought about volcanoes. I’ve thought about salmon. Heck, I’ve even thought about deeper things like emotion and violence. Yet, even with all these interesting thoughts I’ve had, I’m still blown away by the number of thoughts these fancy advertising people can have about my work.

They think if they like it.

They think about if it makes sense.

They think about if it’s an ad.

The nerve of them to think so goddamn much.

And through these thoughts, I’ve learned that, while they are not physical weapons like guns, knives, or ninja stars, thoughts can hurt too.

At one of our book crits last week, my partner and I felt that thought-pain. The woman giving us the crit flipped through the book faster than you could say ‘hire me’, with halfhearted chuckles at each click. With the last of these clicks, she told us that she wasn’t feeling it, everything was too simple (she should read Chip and Dan Heath), felt too obvious, and that we should apologise to our forefathers for sullying our family names. The best part about it was that she gave next to nothing in terms of constructive feedback. Knowing how to get better at your craft is such a pathetic desire.

But sometimes thoughts can make you feel nice, too. A thought can be like when your mom used to give you tummy scratches with extra nails before you realised how horribly lactose intolerant you are.

Sometimes they like your work. They like your thinking. They kindly let you know that you’re not quite there yet, but they can see that you understand what it takes and just need that extra push. They give you the boost you need to continue to elevate each part of your craft.

And after you get that nice, naily tummy scratch of thoughts, feeling proud, motivated, ready for the next part of the mountain to climb, you head to another agency to get a thought-ninja star to the solar plexus.


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